Penn State researchers win $1.5 million grant to build multimodal optical microscope

Penn State University researchers won a $1.5 million grant to construction a new multimodal optical microscope, SCATTIRSTORM, that could enable more efficient bioenergy production, the university announced
The U.S. Department of Energy grant was awarded to three Penn State researchers, according to the article. The researchers will use the microscope for high-precision investigation into the enzyme cellulase, important because it degrades cellulose, a structural component of plant cell walls and the most abundant polymer on Earth, the article states.

Developing more efficient cellulose breakdown strategies via bioengineered enzymes has considerable economic value, because it makes plant biowaste such as corn stalks and switchgrass usable for cleaner-burning biofuels.
"Cellulose is just a string of glucose molecules," Will Hancock, professor of biomedical engineering, said in the article. "What cellulase does is breaks cellulose down into its fundamental glucose and that can be easily converted into ethanol for biofuels." Hancock is a BMES member.

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