Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

‘Unzipping’ poplars’ biofuel potential

04.04.2014

What began 20 years ago as an innovation to improve paper industry processes and dairy forage digestibility may now open the door to a much more energy- and cost-efficient way to convert biomass into fuel.

The research, which appears in the current issue of Science, focuses on enhancing poplar trees so they can break down easier and thus improving their viability as a biofuel.


Scientists have unzipped poplars' biofuel potential. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz

The long-term efforts and teamwork involved to find this solution can be described as a rare, top-down approach to engineering plants for digestibility, said Curtis Wilkerson, Michigan State University plant biologist and the lead author.

“By designing poplars for deconstruction, we can improve the degradability of a very useful biomass product,” said Wilkerson, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center scientist. “Poplars are dense, easy to store and they flourish on marginal lands not suitable for food crops, making them a non-competing and sustainable source of biofuel.”

... more about:
»biomass »clear »crops »exotic »genes »monomers »poplar »produce

The idea to engineer biomass for easier degradation first took shape in the mid-1990s in the lab of John Ralph, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and GLBRC plants leader. Ralph’s group was looking to reduce energy usage in the paper pulping process by more efficiently removing lignin – the polymer that gives plant cell walls their sturdiness – from trees.

s approach had clear benefits for the biofuels industry as well. The difficulty in removing and processing lignin remains a major obstacle to accessing the valuable sugars contained within biomass, adding energy and cost to the production of biofuels.

Seeing an opportunity to carry out Ralph’s concept in poplar, GLBRC researchers pooled their expertise. To produce the enhanced poplars, Wilkerson identified and isolated a gene capable of making monomers – molecular glue of sorts – with bonds that are easier to break apart. Next, Shawn Mansfield with the University of British Columbia successfully put that gene into poplars. The team then determined that the plants not only created the monomers but also incorporated them into the lignin polymer.

This introduced weak links into the lignin backbone and transformed the poplars’ natural lignin into a more easily degradable version. “We can now move beyond tinkering with the known genes in the lignin pathway to using exotic genes to alter the lignin polymer in predesigned but plant-compatible ways,” Ralph said.

“This approach should pave the way to generating more valuable biomass that can be processed in a more energy efficient manner for biofuels and paper products.” The research also is noteworthy for being the direct result of a collaboration funded by the GLBRC, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and created to make transformational breakthroughs in new cellulosic biofuels technology.

Realizing the collaborative project called for a wide array of expertise, from finding the gene and introducing it into the plants, to proving, via newly designed analyses, that the plant was utilizing the new monomers in making its lignin. “I guarantee that John Ralph and I would never have met without the GLBRC,” Wilkerson said.

“When I first met him at a group retreat, I knew very little about lignin. But I ended up sharing some techniques I’d been using for totally different projects that I thought might be useful for his ‘zip-lignin’ research. The collaboration really grew from there.”

Layne Cameron | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/unzipping-poplars-biofuel-potential/

Further reports about: biomass clear crops exotic genes monomers poplar produce

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht “Virtual Lab” Specializes in Ultra-High Efficiency Solar Cells from Europe
25.06.2015 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

nachricht Efficient conversion from spin currents to charge currents in a superconductor
24.06.2015 | The University of Tokyo

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: X-rays and electrons join forces to map catalytic reactions in real-time

New technique combines electron microscopy and synchrotron X-rays to track chemical reactions under real operating conditions

A new technique pioneered at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals atomic-scale changes during catalytic reactions in real...

Im Focus: Iron: A biological element?

Think of an object made of iron: An I-beam, a car frame, a nail. Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and a half billion years ago.

Think of an object made of iron: An I-beam, a car frame, a nail. Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and...

Im Focus: Thousands of Droplets for Diagnostics

Researchers develop new method enabling DNA molecules to be counted in just 30 minutes

A team of scientists including PhD student Friedrich Schuler from the Laboratory of MEMS Applications at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) of...

Im Focus: Bionic eye clinical trial results show long-term safety, efficacy vision-restoring implant

Patients using Argus II experienced significant improvement in visual function and quality of life

The three-year clinical trial results of the retinal implant popularly known as the "bionic eye," have proven the long-term efficacy, safety and reliability of...

Im Focus: Lasers for Fast Internet in Space – Space Technology from Aachen

On June 23, the second Sentinel mission was launched from the space mission launch center in Kourou. A critical component of Aachen is on board. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT and Tesat-Spacecom have jointly developed the know-how for space-qualified laser components. For the Sentinel mission the diode laser pump module of the Laser Communication Terminal LCT was planned and constructed in Aachen in cooperation with the manufacturer of the LCT, Tesat-Spacecom, and the Ferdinand Braun Institute.

After eight years of preparation, in the early morning of June 23 the time had come: in Kourou in French Guiana, the European Space Agency launched the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine: Abstract Submission has been extended to 24 June

16.06.2015 | Event News

MUSE hosting Europe’s largest science communication conference

11.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Offshore wind park Westermost Rough officially inaugurated

01.07.2015 | Press release

Siemens Velaro train wins "Red Dot" award

01.07.2015 | Awards Funding

Liquids on Fibers - Slipping or Flowing?

01.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>