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Cellulosome preparations for cellulose hydrolysis

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

With the annual potential of over 1.3 billion dry tons of biomass, the prospective growth of biomass related industries is tremendous. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) leads the DOE’s National Bioenergy Center, with research spanning the full spectrum from fundamental science to demonstration in fully integrated pilot plant scale operations. Plant cell walls represent a vast renewable carbon source. Biofuels derived from plant cell wall material is a promising renewable energy technology in part because of the large amount of low cost biomass feedstock. Efficient actions of cellulases to release fermentable sugars from biomass cellulose are an important step in making this conversion economically viable.

NREL scientists have been working to improve cellulose digestion using rational enzyme engineering and knowledge from natural diversity, including a comprehensive evaluation of cellulose disruptor proteins. The outcome of this research is a 2.5 fold improvement of the conversion of Avicel PH101 over a commercial cellulose preparation. This significant enhancement will reduce the cost of enzymes and ultimately bring down the cost of cellulosic biofuels.


NREL scientist have devised a method in which a cellulosome enzyme complex from Clostridium thermocellum is added to a fungal cellulase mixture, such as those found in commercial enzyme preparations from fungal culture broths, resulting in significantly improved cellulose hydrolysis activity.

The enzyme cocktails may be used in compositions to help degrade a variety of cellulose products (energy crops, agricultural residues, paper,  etc.) to produce biofuels. Enzymes can also be used to enhance the cleaning ability of detergents, function as a softening agent, improve the feel of cotton fabrics. The bioethanol industry also is poised to utilize low cost cellulase enzyme mixtures by using a lower volume of enzymes to produce more fermentable sugars from biomass. Cellulosome and fungal free enzymes together have promise to lower the enzyme cost, which would lower the overall cost of ethanol. 


This invention reduces the enzyme cost by adding less protein to achieve a higher degree hydrolysis of cellulose into glucose. Testing resulted in a 2.5 fold improvement of the conversion of Avicel PH 101 over a commercial cellulase preparation. This results in a significant cost reduction of enzyme cocktails, which can be used in compositions to help degrade a variety of cellulose products (energy crops, agricultural residues, paper, cotton, etc.) in landfills.

Applications and Industries

Biofuels, biomass, bioethanol, renewable fuels, cleaning agents

More Information

US provisional patent application (61/676,401) filed at USPTO.

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Application 20140030769
Disclosed herein are combinations of free fungal enzymes and cellulosomes useful for the hydrolysis of cellulose and the conversion of biomass. Methods of degrading cellulose and biomass using the combinations are also disclosed.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 07/29/2013
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
NREL ROI 11-35DevelopmentAvailable01/28/201301/14/2013

Contact NREL About This Technology

To: Eric Payne<>