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Plant and microbial research seeks biofuel production from lignocellulose

  • Author(s): Bartley, Laura E
  • Ronald, Pamela C
  • et al.
Abstract

A key strategy for biofuel production is making use of the chemical energy stored in plant cell walls. Cell walls are a strong meshwork of sugar chains and other polymers that encircle each plant cell. Collectively known as lignocellulose, cell wall material represents the bulk of plant dry mass. Biofuels can be made by releasing sugars from lignocellulose and converting them into fuel; however, this is currently an energy-intensive process. We summarize the barriers to efficient lignocellulosic biofuel production and highlight scientific research recently funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Energy, both to understand and harness the mechanisms by which plants build cell walls, and to further develop enzymes and microbes that facilitate sugar release and biofuel production.

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