Thursday, April 9, 2009
Scientists working on biofuels also drill deeply, but they drill into the molecular-level activity of enzymes instead of rock.
Dubrow shares some of his thoughts about the research:
“I thought some of the most interesting parts of the story were that simulations on supercomputers are the only way to ‘see’ the molecular-level activity of enzymes; and that once researchers identify the slow step in breaking down cellulose, they pass that information to a group that can mutate the enzyme and create faster, more efficient cellulases.
“Whereas, for hundreds of years physical experimentation was the primary way scientific discoveries were made, now modeling on high performance computer systems happens first and drives experimentation.
“Simulations are just so much cheaper, faster, and more illuminating than wetlab experiments in many cases. The physical experiments are still necessary, of course, but they are often guided by the results of research like what Mark Nimlos and colleagues are doing on Ranger, which takes years off the time to discovery and finds solutions that are not intuitive.”