MADISON — A compound that has scientists seeing red may hold the key to engineering yeasts that produce better biofuels.
Behind the successful conversion of biomass to a better biofuel or a new green chemical, there is a carefully chosen solvent. The right solvent not only dissolves biomass but also drives the efficiency of the entire conversion process, resulting in higher yields and a lower bottom line.
AUSTIN, Texas — Building on the success of 10 years of investigation into the production of renewable fuels from plants, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, recently embarked on a new mission: to develop sustainable alternatives to transportation fuels and products currently derived from petroleum.
Advances in biofuels research tend to involve reduced costs, greater reagent stability, more diverse and valuable end products, or faster reactions, which often increase product yields as well.
In an article published last summer in Science, researchers at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) reported on ten years of work assessing the potential climate benefit of producing dedicated bioenergy crops such as switchgrass, poplar, or restored prairie. The mood?
Assistant professor of biochemistry Vatsan Raman was recently named to a list of 44 young researchers featured in Biochemistry’s “Future of Biochemistry” special issue.
Plant biomass contains considerable calorific value but most of it makes up robust cell walls, an unappetising evolutionary advantage that helped grasses to survive foragers and prosper for more than 60 million years.
The trouble is that this robustness still makes them less digestible in the rumen of cows and sheep and difficult to process in bioenergy refineries for ethanol fuel.
Lignin, a substance that makes up roughly a quarter of plant biomass, reinforces plant structures and offers a defense system against microbes. But this complex substance is also notorious for being difficult to degrade, creating challenges for biofuels producers and paper manufacturers alike.
Yeung and colleagues at Rice, UCLA, Michigan State University and the University of New Mexico counted rare molecules in the atmosphere that contain only heavy isotopes of nitrogen and discovered a planetary-scale tug-of-war between life, the deep Earth and the upper atmosphere that is expressed in atmospheric nitrogen.