Tension wood, which forms naturally in hardwood trees in response to bending stress, is known to possess unique features that render it desirable as a bioenergy feedstock. Although individual elements of tension wood have been studied previously, the BESC team is the first to use a comprehensive suite of techniques to systematically characterize tension wood and link the wood's properties to sugar release. Plant sugars, known as cellulose, are fermented into alcohol for use as biofuel.
"There has been no integrated study of tension stress response that relates the molecular and biochemical properties of the wood to the amount of sugar that is released," said Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Udaya Kalluri, a co-author on the study.
The work, published in Energy & Environmental Science, describes tension wood properties including an increased number of woody cells, thicker cell walls, more crystalline forms of cellulose and lower lignin levels, all of which are desired in an biofuel crop.
"Tension wood in poplar trees has a special type of cell wall that is of interest because it is composed of more than 90 percent cellulose, whereas wood is normally composed of 40 to 55 percent cellulose," Kalluri said. "If you increase the cellulose in your feedstock material, then you can potentially extract more sugars as the quality of the wood has changed. Our study confirms this phenomenon."
The study's cohesive approach also provides a new perspective on the natural plant barriers that prevent the release of sugars necessary for biofuel production, a trait scientists term as recalcitrance.
"Recalcitrance of plants is ultimately a reflection of a series of integrated plant cell walls, components, structures and how they are put together," said co-author Arthur Ragauskas of Georgia Institute of Technology. "This paper illustrates that you need to use an holistic, integrated approach to study the totality of recalcitrance."
Using the current study as a model, the researchers are extending their investigation of tension wood down to the molecular level and hope to eventually unearth the genetic basis behind its desirable physical features. Although tension wood itself is not considered to be a viable feedstock option, insight gleaned from studying its unique physical and molecular characteristics could be used to design and select more suitably tailored bioenergy crops.
"This study exemplifies how the integrated model of BESC can bring together such unique research expertise," said BESC director Paul Gilna. "The experimental design in itself is reflective of the multidisciplinary nature of a DOE Bioenergy Research Center."
The research team also includes Georgia Institute of Technology's Marcus Foston, Chris Hubbell, Reichel Sameul, Seokwon Jung and Hu Fan; National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Robert Sykes, Shi-You Ding, Yining Zeng, Erica Gjersing and Mark Davis, and ORNL's Sara Jawdy and Gerald Tuskan.
BESC is one of three DOE Bioenergy Research Centers established by the DOE's Office of Science in 2007. The centers support multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams pursuing the fundamental scientific breakthroughs needed to make production of cellulosic biofuels, or biofuels from nonfood plant fiber, cost-effective on a national scale.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.
Morgan McCorkle | EurekAlert!
Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter
16.01.2017 | Washington State University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction