Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Team aims to make sugarcane, sorghum into oil-producing crops

02.03.2012
With the support of a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers will take the first steps toward engineering two new oil-rich crops.

They aim to boost the natural, oil-producing capabilities of sugarcane and sorghum, increase the crops’ photosynthetic power and – in the case of sugarcane – enhance the plant’s cold tolerance so that it can grow in more northerly climes.

The initiative, led by researchers at the University of Illinois in collaboration with scientists at the University of Florida, the University of Nebraska and the Brookhaven National Laboratory, will make use of recent advances in plant biotechnology and computer modeling to produce high-yielding, cold-tolerant, photosynthetically efficient crops that can be used in the production of biodiesel and jet fuel.

“Plants already have all the genetic apparatus to make oils,” said Illinois crop sciences and Institute for Genomic Biology professor Stephen Long, who leads the initiative. “It’s in their genomes.”

Once they have matured, sugarcane and sorghum spend much of their energy making and storing sugars, he said.

“We are proposing to subvert that mechanism in the plant to, instead of making sugar, use the products of photosynthesis to make oils and deposit those in the stems.”

These natural plant oils, known as triacylglycerols, can be converted into diesel and jet fuel by a chemical process known as hydro-treatment.
“Ethanol is somewhat problematic in that we don’t have any pipelines for distributing it around the country,” Long said. “And we have to deal with the blend-wall – that is, most current cars cannot deal with more than 10 percent ethanol, setting a limit on the amount of gasoline we can replace at present.”
Traditional oil-producing plants, such as soybeans, can’t produce enough oil per unit of land to make this approach cost effective in the long-term without subsidies, Long said. But sugarcane and sorghum, which are among the most productive plants in agriculture, could feasibly produce more than 10 times the amount of oil per acre of crops such as canola and soybean, Long said.

The new work will build on previous studies that have identified genes that enhance oil production in plants and genes that boost their photosynthetic efficiency.

Long and his colleagues also will make use of their knowledge of Miscanthus x giganteus, a perennial grass already used as a biofuels feedstock. The use of this new crop was first pioneered in the U.S. at the U. of I. Miscanthus can grow up to 13 feet (3.9 meters) tall and is closely related to sugarcane but is much more tolerant of cold weather. The researchers hope to introduce the genes that enhance its cold tolerance into sugarcane, which today can survive only in the hottest parts of southern U.S. states.

Another project will look at engineering bacteria to produce diesel directly and, once the process is streamlined in the bacterium, transfer the critical genes to sugarcane and sorghum.

“Sorghum and sugarcane will grow on quite poor land, so this should be doable without competing with food-crop production,” Long said. “The amount (of oil) we can get per unit (of) land area really makes this economically very viable as well, so I think it has the potential to give significant energy security to the country.”

Long said he expects to have early “proof of concept” results within 18 months.
Editor’s note: To reach Stephen Long, call 217-333-9396;
email slong@illinois.edu

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Energy hybrid: Battery meets super capacitor
01.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz

nachricht Tailor-Made Membranes for the Environment
30.11.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>