“Breaking Good” — The Discovery Files

The discovery of a family of enzymes with an affinity for lignin — components of plants that make them rigid and less susceptible to pathogens — could represent a breakthrough in the recycling of plant waste and production of sustainable chemicals needed for nylon, fuels and plastics. Scientists have been trying for decades to more efficiently break down lignin into its basic chemical building blocks, and a U.S.-U.K. engineering team believes these enzymes could be engineered to be super effective at doing so.