Letter | Published:

Fermentation of Wood-dust by Cellulose Bacteria

Nature volume 158, page 795 (30 November 1946) | Download Citation



IN this laboratory, fermentation of birch, aspen and pine-dusts has been investigated by enrichment cultures of thermophilic1, and recently also of mesophilic2, cellulose bacteria. he Tfiner the wood was ground, the more of the cellulose was fermented. In the best cases, a fermentation of about 70 per cent of cellulose in wood was obtained with the leaf-tree dust at 60° C. Distinct fermentation could be noted only a day after inoculation. Our results have thus disproved the earlier conception that the cellulose in wood is fermented only when lignin is in some way destroyed3, and are evidence against the supposition that cellulose and lignin are chemically bound in wood. Nevertheless there may be such a linkage, for the long cellulose molecules may be broken on grinding wood. If we presume that lignin is bound to the other end of the fibrous cellulose molecule, there would be formed from the free end of these molecules fragments which afford a suitable substrate for bacteria. As lignin is decomposed to some extent during fermentation (in one experiment with birch dust the decrease in the lignin content was 11·4 per cent, and in methoxyl content 29·2 per cent) the bonds between lignin and cellulose can also be broken, so that even the cellulose bound with lignin becomes fermentable. The assumption that a part of the cellulose in wood is bound with lignin, while a part is free, is in accord with our findings. This would also explain why the whole amount of the carbohydrates in wood-dust could not be fermented.

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  1. 1.

    and , Suomen Kemistilehti B, 11, 30 (1938). Svensk Kemisk Tidskrift, 56, 391 (1944). and , Suomen Kemistilehti B, 19, 3 (1946). and , Suomen Kemistilehti B, 19, 4 (1946).

  2. 2.

    , Suomen Kemistilehti B, in the press.

  3. 3.

    , and , Ind. Eng. Chem., 29, 1026 (1937).

  4. 4.

    , Leeuwenhoek, 3, 1 (1936); 6, 251 (1939–40).

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  1. Biochemical Institute, Helsinki. Oct. 23.



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