Biomass Formation and Modification
Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion
Molecular Structure of Plant Biomass
Imaging Reveals Enzymes in Action and Significance of Plants' Nanoscale Architecture
Plant cell walls contain networks of cellulose microfibrils that can be broken down into sugars for fuel and complex polymers that shield the cellulose from enzymatic attack. To characterize cell wall structure at the subnanometer scale and assess its response to chemical pretreatment, BESC developed techniques to image enzyme digestion in real time, revealing that biomass reactivity is determined by the nanoscale architecture of plant cell walls.Read More
A Leap Forward in Microbial Ethanol Yields
Engineered yeast converts up to 97% of plant sugars into fuel
Scientists at BESC and research partner Mascoma LLC have developed an advanced strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that sets a new standard for conversion of biomass sugars from pretreated corn stover. While conventional yeast (pictured) leaves more than one-third of plant sugars unused in the form of xylose, the C5 FUEL™ microbe efficiently converts this xylose into ethanol in less than 48 hours.Read More
Real-World Performance of Low-Lignin Switchgrass
Field study assesses sugar release and ethanol yield in transgenic feedstock
Lignin in the cell walls of switchgrass and other bioenergy feedstocks severely limits the accessibility of cell wall carbohydrates to enzymatic breakdown into fermentable sugars and subsequently biofuels. In the first reported study of its kind, the biofuel potential of transgenic switchgrass with reduced lignin content was evaluated over two growing seasons.Read More
Using a "commercialization council" of technology transfer and intellectual property (IP) management professionals from partner institutions, BESC evaluates the commercial potential of new inventions arising from BESC research and promotes and facilitates the licensing of BESC IP.
BESC's self-sustaining education program takes a novel approach. BESC has developed lesson plans to educate students about energy production and utilization. BESC uses a hub-and-spoke approach of working through regional science centers to maximize hands-on access and adaptation to local conditions.
Progress to Date
July 15, 2015
Rapid Identification of Restriction Systems that Prevent DNA Transformation of Uncharacterized Bacteria
New 4mC-specific sequencing strategy will help uncover and facilitate investigation of 4mC in bacterial R-M systems and can advance the rapid and efficient genetic engineering of these bacteria in the future.
July 01, 2015
Imaging with HPFM (a,c,e,g) complemented with confocal Raman (b,d,f,h) cross-section of fresh (a,b), extractive-free (c,d), holopulped extractive-free (e,f), acid-treated holopulped extractive-free (g,h) Populus. Note that the amplitude scale is smaller in e-h.
New Hybrid Microscope Provide Unparalleled Submicron View of Plant Cell Walls
A novel, noninvasive method to explore submicron structures of biomass before and after treatment. Researchers will be able to study samples ranging from naturally occurring biological polymers, tissues and plant cells to engineered nanoparticles and nanostructures.
June 22, 2015
Novel Delivery System for Root Symbiotic Fungus, Sebacina vermifera, Enhances Biomass yield of Low Lignin Switchgrass Lines
S. vermifera colonization enhanced plant biomass growth by 15-50% independent of delivery method; however, clay-based delivery system increased the percentage of fungal biomass in planta. Root biomass and fungal colonization was significantly improved with clay-based system.
June 08, 2015
Making the Case for Why Biofuels are Needed to Achieve Low-Carbon Transport Through 2050 and Beyond
Even with aggressive reductions in travel growth, shifts to mass transport modes, strong efficiency improvements and deep market penetration by electricity and hydrogen, there remains a large demand for dense liquid fuels: 80% of transport energy demand in 2050, and 50% in 2075. If conventional fossil fuels were used to meet this demand, emissions from the transportation sector would exceed the economy-wide emissions consistent with the two degree scenario. It will likely be difficult to achieve a low-carbon transport sector without widespread use of biofuels.
June 01, 2015
BESC Partner Mascoma Launches C5 FUEL&trade — A Yeast Engineered for Improved Cellulosic Biofuel Production
The new strain of yeast simultaneously yields 97 percent conversion of xylose – the C5 sugar – and glucose and it accomplishes this feat in less than 48 hours. The launch of a commercially available product designed for producers in the cellulosic biofuels market is an important milestone for BESC and the BRC program.
May 29, 2015
Book edited by BESC Scientist on Consolidated Bioprocessing
Mike Himmel has edited a new book on "Direct Microbial Conversion of Biomass to Advanced Biofuels," Elsevier, London/New York, NY. 2015. Several chapters report on BESC work and acknowledge BER support.
May 14, 2015
Perspective: Potential Impact of Modern Biotechnology on Future Supply of Biofuels
This study assesses the feasibility and advantages of near-future (10-year) biotechnological developments for a U.S. biomass-based supply chain for bioenergy production.
April 27, 2015
DOE Bioenergy Research Centers Well Represented at the 37th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals — 2015
19% of oral presentations were from BESC, GLBRC and JBEI (26 out of 138) and approximately 27 BRC posters were presented. There were 650 attendees from academia, industry and government.
April 15, 2015
Pyrolysis Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry as a High-throughput Method for Determining Biomass Sugar Content
Py-MBMS can be used to estimate sugar content of biomass using regression models. The method is much faster (< 2 min/sample) than traditional hydrolysis followed by HPLC with much less sample preparation. This method introduces a new, high-throughput technique for sugar compositional analysis. The py-MBMS spectra can also be used to estimate lignin and S/G ratio, providing a comprehensive analysis.
April 01, 2015
James Liao Elected to the National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Liao's science focuses on developing the biological production of the liquid fuel isobutanol while simultaneously consuming carbon dioxide and developing different methods to create liquid fuels from electricity and from waste proteins; as well as identifying a more efficient way to convert sugars into fuels. Dr. Liao serves as the BESC Activity Lead for Butanol Production by CBP.
March 31, 2015
Improved multi-functional cellulase awarded US Patent
One of the most abundant cellulase components of the CipA scaffold, CbhA, was improved by replacing the Fn3 domains with a thermal stable linker peptide from another cellulolytic microbe. Changing out the linker domain doubled the activity of the CbhA enzyme. U.S. Patent 8993276 (March 31, 2015) was issued for the invention of the new improved cellulase enzyme.
March 21, 2015
New Promoters for Metabolic Engineering of C. thermocellum
Several promoters were identified (eno, cbp, cbp_2, 815, 966, 2638 and 2926) which gave high expression and high enzymatic activity of both reporter genes in C. thermocellum.
March 16, 2015
Release of a genome dataset comprised of results from multiple sequencing modalities
Access to a comprehensive dataset representing a range of sequencing technologies can serve as a benchmark/training dataset to assist others in developing new technologies and computational algorithms.
March 05, 2015
Review: Ethanol Production by Engineered Thermophiles
Four potential pathways from the glycolysis intermediate pyruvate into ethanol have been identified: pyruvate decarboxylase (PDC), pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), pyruvate ferredoxin oxidoreductase (PFOR) and pyruvate formate lyase (PFL). Three of these pathways (PDC, PDH and PFOR) have been used in thermophiles for ethanol production at significantly higher yield, and two pathways (PDC and PFOR) resulted in ethanol production at higher titer.
March 01, 2015
Tāpirins, a New Class of Biomolecules, Mediate Attachment of Caldicellulosiruptor Species to Cellulose
Tāpirins represent a new class of proteins used by Caldicellulosiruptor species to attach to insoluble cellulose. The tapirins establish a new paradigm for how cellulolytic bacteria adhere to cellulose.
March 01, 2015
Reducing Recalcitrance and Increasing Growth in Populus by Downregulation of Matrix Polysaccharide Biosynthetic Gene
Populus GAUT12.1-Knockdown lines have 3 to 7% increased sugar release, confirming strategy to reduce recalcitrance. Populus GAUT12.1-Knockdown lines have 12 to 52% increase in plant height, 12 to 44% increased stem diameter, and 52 to 117% increased leaf size, demonstrating that plant growth and recalcitrance are linked and can simultaneously be improved. Improved biomass phenotype was accompanied by reduction in pectin and xylan cell wall content, supporting hypothesis that pectin and xylan contribute to a wall infrastructure(s) critical for recalcitrance.
February 27, 2015
Review paper summarizes insights from 20 years of bacterial genome sequencing
Second and third generation sequencing have greatly reduced the cost of sequencing and made it accessible to a great many more individual investigators. Sequencing of bacterial genome sequences is now a standard procedure and the information from tens of thousands of bacterial genomes has had a major impact on the view of the bacterial world.
February 21, 2015
Ten initial BESC Populus TOP lines identified with attractive biofuel traits in conversion and growth
Simultaneous comparison of Populus TOP lines for enhanced growth and biofuel traits will allow BESC researchers to identify the best among them to further evaluate in field studies (e.g., to determine sustainability traits) in preparation for application and licensing with commercial partners.
February 11, 2015
Novel Pretreatment Greatly Reduces Enzyme Loadings and Increases Biofuel Yields
Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) pretreatment achieved about a 10-fold reduction in enzyme loadings compared to traditional DA pretreatment. CELF also removed a majority of biomass lignin (over 90% in wood) that could be precipitated as a high purity product suitable for conversion to high value chemicals and materials.