Evolution in Industry: Putting Natural Selection to Work

ethanol gas pump, photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy The concept of natural selection has been applied in many fields outside biology. For example, chemists have applied principles of natural selection to develop new molecules with specific functions. First they create variants of an existing molecule using chemical techniques. They then test the variants for the desired function. The variants that do the best job are used to generate new variants. Repeated rounds of this selection process result in molecules that have a greatly enhanced ability to perform a given task. This technique has been used to create new enzymes that can convert cornstalks and other agricultural wastes into ethanol with increased efficiency.

From Science, Evolution, and Creationism, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine. © 2008 National Academy of Sciences