In the age-old nature versus nurture debate, Douglas Clark, a faculty scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Berkeley, is not taking sides. In the search for enzymes that can break lignocellulose down into biofuel sugars under the extreme conditions of a refinery, he has prospected for extremophilic microbes and engineered his own cellulases.
There’s an old saying in the biofuels industry: “You can make anything from lignin except money...
Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline...
As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors. A team has figured out how to make electrodes from certain hemp fibers, and the breakthrough came from figuring out how to process them.
A powerful new tool that can help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops for clean, green and renewable bioenergy, has been developed by researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The researchers have developed an assay that enables scientists to identify and characterize the function of nucleotide sugar transporters.
A powerful new tool that could help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops bioenergy, has been developed by researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute. Their new, unique assay enabled them to analyze nucleotide sugar transporter activities in Arabidopsis, a promising source of plant biomass, and characterize a family of six nucleotide sugar transporters that has never before been described.
Some chemical conversions are harder than others. Refining natural gas into an easy-to-transport, easy-to-store liquid alcohol has so far been a logistic and economic challenge. But now, a new material, designed and patented by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is making this process a little easier.
Rice Univ. chemical engineer Michael Wong has spent a decade amassing evidence that palladium-gold nanoparticles are excellent catalysts for cleaning polluted water, but even he was surprised at how well the particles converted biodiesel waste into valuable chemicals.
Fossil fuel emissions release billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. In Brazil, the demand for alternative energy sources has led to an increase in biofuel crops. New research demonstrates the high carbon costs of converting intact Brazilian savanna compared to the carbon gains obtained from converting underutilized pastureland for biofuel crops.
Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have unveiled the first glycosyltransferase clone collection specifically targeted for the study of the biosynthesis of plant cell walls. The idea behind “the JBEI GT Collection” is to provide a functional genomic resource for researchers seeking to extract the sugars in plant biomass and synthesize them into clean, green and renewable transportation fuels.
A research center at Purdue Univ.'s Discovery Park has been awarded a $12 million, four-year grant as part of a $100 million U.S. Dept. of Energy initiative to accelerate scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st century energy economy. The Purdue-led C3Bio will use the additional funding to advance methods for converting plant lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels and other bio-based products.
A new fuel-cell concept from Michigan State Univ. allows biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, should give producers the opportunity to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process.
When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money. A new review article in Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics.
Scientists at Ames Laboratory have developed a nanoparticle that is able to perform two processing functions at once for the production of green diesel, an alternative fuel created from the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks like algae. The method is a departure from the established process of producing biodiesel, which is accomplished by reacting fats and oils with alcohols.
Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings by a Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Navigant Research forecasts that the “global biofuels production will reach 61 billion gallons by 2023, replacing nearly 6% of global transportation fuel production from fossil sources and generating $70 billion in new revenue over the next decade.” The demand for an appropriate crop that can provide biofuels, without competing for land use with food crops, is on.
Stanford Univ. scientists have found a new, highly efficient way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. This promising discovery could provide an eco-friendly alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops, say the scientists. Their results are published online in Nature.
New research is focusing on enhancing poplar trees so they can break down easier and thus improving their viability as a biofuel. The long-term efforts and teamwork involved to find this solution can be described as a rare, top-down approach to engineering plants for digestibility.
Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.
Biomass is a good alternative for fossil fuels, but converting biomass into useful chemicals and fuels is difficult in practice. The metal oxide CeO2 can help the process by activating water, but until recent research in the Netherlands, it was not clear in which form the reactivity of this catalyst was highest.
Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. With improvements in process efficiency, the biofuel could supplement limited supplies of petroleum-based JP-10, and might also facilitate development of a new generation of more powerful engines.
Joint BioEnergy Institute scientists have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels. The ionic liquid resistance is based on a pair of genes discovered in a bacterium native to a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico.
They need warmth to grow, but algae don’t necessarily need light. Experts in Finland, where warmer weather is rare, say it makes sense to link algae cultivation to industrial operations where residual heat is available to heat algae cultivation ponds or reactors. Recent research there shows that such an approach could be profitably implemented.
Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue Univ. study says. The researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars, but doesn't display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants.
As energy costs rise, more Americans are turning to bioenergy to provide power to their homes and workplaces. Bioenergy is renewable energy made from organic sources, such as biomass. Technology has advanced enough that biomass power plants small enough to fit on a farm can be built at relatively low costs. Now, researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas.
A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers shows that nearly 90% of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules. Interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a cobaloxime catalyst provides an inexpensive photocathode for bionic leaves that produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
The viability of the bioenergy crops industry could be strengthened by regulatory efforts to address nonpoint source pollution from agricultural sources. That, in turn, means that the industry should be strategic in developing metrics that measure the ability to enact positive changes in agricultural landscapes, particularly through second-generation perennial crops, according to a paper by a Univ. of Illinois expert in bioenergy law.
Laboratory success doesn’t always translate to real-world success. A team of Michigan State Univ. scientists, however, has invented a new technology that increases the odds of helping algae-based biofuels cross that gap and come closer to reality. The environmental photobioreactor (ePBR) system is the world’s first standard algae growing platform, one that simulates dynamic natural environments.
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