In the presence of oxygen, TU-103 degrades cellulose-based substrates, such as newspapers and other organic material. Celluose is the most abundant organic material on Earth and it has been an aspiration of many scientists to harness its potential. TU-103 is the only known bacteria to directly produce butanol in the presence of air, meaning reduced operational costs compared to other methods.
Scientists first discovered the bacteria in animal droppings, and successfully cultivated it to produce butanol. A patent is currently pending for the process.
Butanol is also considered a far more effective bio fuel than ethanol. It can be used in petrol car without any modifications to the engine. It is less corrosive and contains more energy than ethanol, meaning improved mileage.
The breakthrough could see 323 million tonnes of organic waste converted to biofuels in the United States alone. TU-103 could represent a sustainable, end of life option for recycled paper.