A sticky slime secreted by bacteria could soon find its way into a host of wood products, such as plywood and particleboard. Wisconsin scientists discovered the natural adhesive while investigating the fermentation of alfalfa to make ethanol fuel.
Paul Weimer of the Department of Agriculture's Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison and his colleagues looked at two species of bacteria. Ruminococcus albus lives in the rumina of cows, and Clostridium thermocellum is widespread in the environment. The bacteria cling to the alfalfa's cellulose fibers and release enzymes that degrade them. A slimy, protein-based secretion from the microbes' cell walls keeps the bacteria stuck to the fibers.