Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Key Plant Traits Yield More Sugar for Biofuels

31.03.2011
New clues about plant structure are helping researchers from the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center narrow down a large collection of poplar tree candidates and identify winners for future use in biofuel production.

Led by Charles Wyman of the Bourns College of Engineering’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology at the University of California, Riverside, a research team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and UCR determined that the amount and composition of lignin in the plant’s cell wall interact in an unanticipated way to influence release of sugar from the plant.

The research was published as “Lignin content in natural Populus variants affects sugar release,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lignin serves as a major roadblock for biofuel production because it forms strong bonds with sugars and interferes with access to these carbohydrates, making it difficult to extract the plant’s sugars contained in cellulose and hemicellulose for conversion to transportation fuels.

“The real driver for bioenergy is how to get sugar as cheaply as possible from these recalcitrant materials,” Wyman said. “We’re looking for clues as to which traits in these poplar materials will lead to better sugar release.”

Using a high-throughput screening method, the BESC researchers rapidly analyzed an unprecedented number of poplar core samples in their search to understand the chemical factors that drive sugar yields.

The analysis revealed a correlation between one plant trait, the S/G ratio, and increased sugar yields. The ratio refers to the two main building blocks of lignin – syringyl and guaiacyl subunits.

"The conventional wisdom is that high lignin contents are bad for sugar release," said lead author Michael Studer. "We unexpectedly found that this statement is only valid for low S/G ratios, while at high S/G ratios lignin does not negatively influence yields. However, replacement of carbohydrates with lignin reduces the maximum possible sugar release."

"Another interesting result was that the samples with the highest sugar release belonged to the group with average S/G ratios and lignin contents. This finding points to a need for deeper understanding of cell wall structure before plants can be rationally engineered for efficient biofuels production,” Studer said.

The team’s study also pinpointed certain poplar samples that produced unusually high sugar yields with no pretreatment. Biofuel production typically requires various pretreatments, such as applying high temperature and pressure to the biomass. Reducing pretreatment would represent a substantial decrease in the price of liquid transportation fuels produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks like poplar.

“It's very enticing that several of the samples released more sugar than typical with no pretreatment,” Wyman said.

Poplar trees, botanically known as Populus, represent the leading woody crop candidate for the production of biomass feedstocks for the creation of biofuels in the U.S. Naturally occurring selections of poplar trees contained wide variations in all observed traits, says Gerald Tuskan, an ORNL plant biologist and one of the co-leads of the study.

“We can mine this natural variability and find extreme poplar phenotypes that have value in increasing sugar yield,” Tuskan said. “Moreover, these native individuals are adapted to local environments.”

From this work, superior poplar cultivars may soon be available for commercial testing and propagation, yielding plant materials that will contribute to reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuel based transportation fuels.

The team, supported by BESC at ORNL, included co-lead Mark Davis and Robert Sykes from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Jaclyn DeMartini from UCR, and Brian Davison and Martin Keller from ORNL.

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. The three centers are coordinated at ORNL, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University.

The Bourns College of Engineering's Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) at UCR is a model for partnerships between industry, government and academia. It is a recognized leader in research and education in the areas of atmospheric processes, emissions and fuels, sustainable energy and transportation systems.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Image: http://www.ornl.gov/info/press_releases/photos/BESC_poplar.jpg

Caption: Scientists from the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Research Center are testing core samples from poplar trees to identify key characteristics that influence how the plants can be more effectively processed into biofuels.

NOTE TO EDITORS: You may read other press releases from Oak Ridge National Laboratory or learn more about the lab at http://www.ornl.gov/news. Additional information about ORNL is available at the sites below:

Twitter - http://twitter.com/oakridgelabnews

RSS Feeds - http://www.ornl.gov/ornlhome/rss_feeds.shtml

Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakridgelab

YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/OakRidgeNationalLab

LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/companies/oak-ridge-national-laboratory

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/Oak.Ridge.National.Laboratory

MEDIA CONTACT: Morgan McCorkle
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Communications and External Relations
(865) 574-7308; mccorkleml@ornl.gov
MEDIA CONTACT: Sean Nealon
Bourns College of Engineering, UC Riverside
(951) 827-1287; sean.nealon@ucr.edu

Morgan McCorkle | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.ornl.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht At last, butterflies get a bigger, better evolutionary tree
16.02.2018 | Florida Museum of Natural History

nachricht New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom
16.02.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>