Berkeley, Calif., April 10, 2013 - Researchers at the DOE's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory say they have re-engineered plant cell walls to more easily access their sugars, enhancing biofuel production using lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock.
Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant organic material on the plant and could supply the sugars needed to produce advanced biofuels, which can supplement or replace fossil fuels, the researchers say.
But they say the expanded use of cellulosic biofuels can only occur if several key technical challenges are met, including finding ways to more cost-effectively extract the sugars.
In the past, extracting sugars from the lignin “cage” has required the use of expensive and environmentally harsh chemicals at high temperatures, a process that can drive production costs of advance biofuels prohibitively high. But JBEI researchers have focused on rewiring the regulation of lignin production ‑ or biosynthesis ‑ in engineered plants and created a process that reduces the resistance of plant cell walls and boosts sugar content without impacting plant development.
Now, the researchers believe, the lignin rewiring strategy could also be used with other plant species, and are working to improve the technique to increase the availability of new-generation biofuel feedstocks.
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