What’s a Gribble? It’s a tiny marine shrimp found on the southern coast of Britain — and its ability to digest wood may provide a breakthrough in efficient biofuel production. Researchers are studying the gribble’s digestion process at a new UK bioenergy centre in order to synthetically copy the process so that grasses, husk, straw and willow can be converted more efficiently into biofuels. The scientists reckon that information learned from the gribble could increase the efficiency of biofuel conversion by a factor of 6, making biofuels even more cost effective and utilizing non-food crops.
The gribble is found in the water chewing on rotting logs, boats, and docks, and to this point it has been considered an annoying pest. Annoying as they may be, they’re amazing efficient at converting wood into sugars, and that ability is very useful for making biofuels. If researchers can unlock the secret to the gribble’s efficient wood-eating and digestion process, producing biofuels could become 6 times more efficient and even cheaper.
Rather than using valuable crop land needed for food production, nutrient-poor land could be used to grow grasses and willows that can then be converted to biofuel without the use of electricity. Even crop waste like husks and straw could also be used. Scientists hope to replicate the incredible enzyme used by the gribble in order to produce ethanol fuel from the organic matter.