These same cells are then used internally by the cells that produce the sugars present in the plant cell walls for the fermentation process. (This is the “carbon from food” that is usually referred to as metabolic energy). We can’t eat the cells directly, but it’s pretty amazing that these same cells are also able to metabolize fuel.
As we know, plants are able to make large amounts of carbon from sugar. They make up a significant portion of all plants that are consumed by humans; it is not just a small percentage of any plant. So even if the cellulose from the plant stems were not absorbed by the cells from whom it was made, an individual cell of the plant might still be able to meet the energy demands of some other function in the cell or even the plant itself (for example if the plant is able to make proteins from carbon dioxide and that protein can be used by the cells within the cell for energy, this will also need to have a use in the cell and some of the nitrogen used might be used in this function).
So it certainly appears that there could be carbon cycling in plant cells, and one idea, is to use the carbon from the fermentation and fermentation waste as energy for other purposes; the question is how to get it into the plant cells and through these cells. In fact there has been a number of proposals to do this (like the idea from Charles Rennie who claims that a particular type of bacteria has metabolic powers similar to plants… see this for details). But this requires a lot of complex chemistry and it’s also a really hard problem to solve (and perhaps not even being able to do it will make it much harder, probably more so than it would otherwise be). A couple of years ago, I suggested that we make our own artificial “carcinogens” that would combine both the “fungi” and plants into something that we could then incorporate into the cells of our plants, or even convert into something that would be good for human life; as I mentioned in a previous post, these sorts of ideas were pretty far out, but one guy has just taken that idea and converted it into working carbon cycling/biofuels that are actually used for human use (more on that below). The basic idea is to convert food starch by breaking carbohydrate through complex reactions to create hydrogen and oxygen. You can even do this very efficiently with carbon dioxide, and hydrogen is a very good fuel. However, the simple point of what has happened with the synthetic versions is: the use of these fuels for the production of food and a process the use of which we know we could achieve at the cost of just a few pounds/week of sugar; so it looks as a bit of a victory to me that I haven’t had to invent very much. In my view, that’s a very big win, and shows one reason why I view the human race as being the most advanced and technologically advanced group in the universe. Here’s how I would go about adapting the cellulose I already got from the plants:
1) Add it to the cellulose I already got from the plants so there should be some carbon/oxids there; this cellulose may be a bit tougher than the carbon/oxygen ones we were working with. 2) Add some simple hydrogen to this carbon/oxygen mixture, then use it to make a fuel (perhaps a good source of iron or bauxite, or even a natural fuel like kerosene or even nitric acid would be good (it does a good job at turning from water into a solid). Hence the next step… Add that fuel to the plants and then use it to make more of those cells.
This simple procedure should allow plants to make a lot of cellulose for their cell walls, then convert the woody stuff inside of it to the sugars needed by the plants… something (or something) like the way plants can make some of the wood waste go into their cell walls should this work. We would see a lot of improvement in the amount of sugar made, and a lot less energy used to get and store that sugar, and the fuel could be put into the storage bins or maybe even put directly into the fire.
So, from this simple example it seems to be pretty straightforward to use the same technology here to convert natural carbon/oxygen compounds into fuel without having to try something even more complicated, something that is probably a better idea than we think. But, we’ll see…