Modified poplars convert to ethanol more efficiently
For decades, John Ralph’s group has been focusing its expertise in biology, chemistry and engineering on one of the most persistent hurdles to a bio-based fuel economy: lignin. As the organic polymer that binds plant cell, vessel and fiber cell walls, lignin resists chemical and enzymatic processing and thus acts as a structural barrier to converting biomass into liquid fuels.
So-called “second-generation” biofuels, which derive from dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass or poplar trees, are all lignocellulosic, meaning their woody cell walls contain lignin polymers. Ralph, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of biochemistry and biological systems engineering and the Plants Leader within the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), recently collaborated with researchers at Michigan State University, Ghent University in Belgium, and INRA in France on a field trial of lignin-modified poplar trees to measure any increase in ethanol yields.
The group’s paper, “Improved saccharification and ethanol yield from field-grown transgenic poplar deficient in cinnamoyl-CoA reductase,” appeared recently as a cover article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and reports on a field trial of poplars in which ...
Monday, February 17th, 2014