Grasslands are a vital but shrinking ecosystem in the U.S., and conversion to cropland is a leading driver of this change.
An ideal biorefinery would turn renewable crops into a variety of fuels and products with little waste. A significant challenge in realizing this vision is what to do with lignin, a fibrous and difficult-to-breakdown material in the cell walls of plants that gives them their sturdiness.
Conventional wisdom in biofuels research holds that carbon efficiency is the most important factor for determining promising strategies for the production of biofuels. For researchers, this means that the more carbon in the crop that ends up as carbon in the fuel, the better.
Switchgrass is a promising biofuel alternative to corn, but farmers, environmentalists and biofuel developers, find deciding on the right time to harvest particularly thorny.
Michaela TerAvest, Michigan State University assistant professor of biochemistry, was recently awarded the Beckman Young Investigator (BYI) Award by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.
Rebecca Smith has loved plants for a long time. In fact, her interest stems from an AP biology class in high school.
“Something about the enormous variation and complexity in the plant kingdom sparked my interest,” says the assistant scientist at the Wisconsin Energy Institute and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), “and I knew I wanted to study plants as a career.”
Where an item is manufactured tells you a lot about it. Is it made by an assembly line or handcrafted one at a time? To learn more about glucose, the sugary feedstock of biofuel refineries, scientists want to know where a polymer of glucose, mixed-linkage glucan (MLG), resides in grasses as grass species are a major potential renewable biomass feedstock.
The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center hosted 10 REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) students in summer 2018. Seven students participated in bioenergy-related research at Michigan State, and three at UW–Madison. We asked them to tell us a little about their interests, motivations, and/or goals related to bioenergy research at GLBRC.
Studies of plants in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry span everything from how they can be grown or consumed for agricultural or bioenergy purposes to a basic understanding of cell biology in plants and animals.
Imagine a new and improved biorefinery, one that produces advanced biofuels as environmentally sustainable as they are economically viable. In the biorefinery of the future, every step of the pipeline is optimized, almost every part of the energy crop is used, and the entire system, from field to fuel, serves to drive down carbon emissions.