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Fungus may boost ethanol production

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Gizmorama - Fungus may boost ethanol production
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	 Fungi may keep spent uranium from leaching

Scottish scientists say fungi might be useful in determining 
depleted uranium's environmental fate by keeping it from 
leaching into the environment. Researchers led by Geoffrey 
Gadd of the University of Dundee found evidence that fungi 
can "lock" depleted uranium into a mineral form that might 
be less likely to find its way into plants, animals or water 
supplies. "This work provides yet another example of the 
incredible properties of microorganisms in effecting 
transformations of metals and minerals in the natural 
environment," said Gadd. "Because fungi are perfectly suited 
as biogeochemical agents, often dominate the biota in 
polluted soils, and play a major role in the establishment 
and survival of plants through their association with roots, 
fungal-based approaches should not be neglected in remediation 
attempts for metal-polluted soils." The researchers found 
free-living and plant symbiotic (mycorrhizal) fungi can 
colonize depleted-uranium surfaces and transform the metal 
into uranyl phosphate minerals. "The fungal-produced minerals 
are capable of long-term uranium retention, so this may help 
prevent uptake of uranium by plants, animals, and microbesm," 
said Gadd. "It might also prevent the spent uranium from 
leaching out from the soil." The findings are detailed in the 
journal Current Biology.

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	     Fungus may boost ethanol production

U.S. researchers say a fungus responsible for deteriorating 
fabric in the South Pacific during World War II could boost 
ethanol production. The genome analysis of the biomass-degrading 
fungus Trichoderma reesei shows it has abundant source of enzymes 
that could be used to breakdown plant cell walls to produce 
biofuels, the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute 
and Los Alamos National Laboratory said in news release.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
"The information generated from the genome of T. reesei provides 
us with a roadmap for accelerating research to optimize fungal 
strains for reducing the current prohibitively high cost of 
converting lignocellulose to fermentable sugars," the Energy 
Department's Eddy Rubin said in a statement. "Improved 
industrial enzyme 'cocktails' from T. reesei and other 
fungi will enable more economical conversion of biomass 
from such feedstocks as the perennial grasses Miscanthus 
and switchgrass, wood from fast-growing trees like poplar, 
agricultural crop residues, and municipal waste, into next-
generation biofuels."

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	    Part of cosmos' missing matter is found

The European Space Agency says its orbiting X-ray observatory 
XMM-Newton has uncovered part of the missing matter in the 
universe. Scientists say all matter in the universe is 
distributed in a cosmic web-like structure. At dense nodes of 
the cosmic web are clusters of galaxies. Astronomers suspected 
the low-density gas permeates the filaments of that cosmic web.
An international team of astronomers, using XMM-Newton were 
observing a pair of galaxy clusters about 2.3 billion light-
years from Earth when they saw a bridge of hot gas connecting 
the clusters. "The hot gas that we see in this bridge or filament 
is probably the hottest and densest part of the diffuse gas in 
the cosmic web, believed to constitute about half the baryonic 
matter in the universe," said Norbert Werner of the Netherlands 
Institute for Space Research and leader of the research team.
"This is only the beginning," added Werner. "To understand the 
distribution of the matter within the cosmic web, we have to … 
ultimately launch a dedicated space observatory to observe the 
cosmic web with a much higher sensitivity than possible with 
current missions."

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