Who would know there’s a link between carnivorous plant Nepenthes mirabilis and agro-waste?
- mirabilis is a fast-growing tropical swamp pitcher plant, otherwise known as a monkey cup. Nepenthes species feed on animals from insects to rats! They can utilise this food source because their acidic digestive juices. Interestingly, these juices include enzymes. capable of degrading chitin, proteins, starch, cellulose, lignin and xylan.
Recently, Anagadam et al. (2019) investigated this particular plant species as a source of digestive juices for use in the conversion of holocellulose into biomass. They were particularly interested in the sustainable management of grape pomace, an agro-waste consisting of the solid remains of the fruit after pressing, which if left untreated can lead to phenolics, harmful chemical residues, and toxic substances leaching into the surrounding environment. Furthermore, the biodegradation of holocellulosic materials can yield by-products that are useful elsewhere as biomass. As the authors suggest there are various methods of achieving this however, they were interested in developing a process that could be undertaken in a single reaction vessel.
In order to fully investigate the use of N. mirabilis in this manner, Anagadam et al. defined key objectives that quantified the chemical characteristics of the grape pomace prior to and post treatment, as well as defining the biocatalytic activities of N. mirabilis. Jenway® spectrophotometers were utilised during these investigations. These spectrophotometers are designed to suit a range of applications, are easy-to-use, and provide robust and reliable data analysis. Anagadam et al. used Jenway spectrophotometers for the following:
- Total lignin content (acid soluble lignin) was determined by dissolving milled grape pomace with sulphuric acid, addition of sterile distilled water, gentle heating in a water bath, and autoclaving. A filtrate was then obtained, and absorbance was quantified at 205nm.
- After biodegradation with mirabilis digestive juices the total reducible sugars of the grape pomace were defined with a standard calibration curve assay, using glucose concentration standards, with absorbance measured at 575nm. Total residual phenolic compounds were defined in a similar way, using a 1,2-dihydroxybenzene standard (650nm).
- Biocatalytic activities and the degradation of compounds to their by-products were measured using a temperature-controlled cuvette, with the spectrophotometer set to kinetics mode.
Through their investigations, Angadam et al. demonstrated that N. mirabilis digestive juices contain enzymes that can degrade holocellulose within a single reaction vessel. However, conventional methods, which have a greater footprint, are superior in their ability to extract total residual sugars. The authors still maintain that the process of using N. mirabilis can be optimised to improve yield. The method has been tried by others in the field on agro-waste from oranges, apples, maize, and oak with similar conclusions (Dlangamandla et al., 2019). Hold this space to see if they can indeed improve the methods.
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Author: Dr J J Lock, EMEA Cole-Parmer
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