One of the key obstacles to extracting sugars from biomass is a complex polymer called lignin. Lignin, a major component of plant cell walls that gives plants their structural integrity, is the most difficult part of the plant to break down. Great Lakes Bioenergy researcher and UW–Madison professor of biochemistry John Ralph and his team discovered that it was possible to introduce weak bonds, or "zips," into the lignin polymer, making the lignin easier and cheaper to break apart.

Zip-Lignin™ technology has the potential to reduce the costs involved in deconstructing biomass, a cost-reduction with wide ranging effects on the paper industries, the bio-products industries, and on the production of cellulosic biofuels.

Efficient biomass conversion
Sustainable cropping systems