The BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) is a multi-institutional (17 partners), multidisciplinary research (biological, chemical, physical and computational sciences, mathematics and engineering) organization focused on the fundamental understanding and elimination of biomass recalcitrance.
BESC's approach to improve accessibility to the sugars within biomass involves 1) designing plant cell walls for rapid deconstruction and 2) developing multitalented microbes for converting plant biomass into biofuels in a single step (consolidated bioprocessing). Addressing the roadblock of biomass recalcitrance will require a multiscale understanding of plant cell walls from biosynthesis to deconstruction pathways. This integrated understanding would generate models, theories and finally processes that will be used to understand and overcome biomass recalcitrance.
BESC biomass formation and modification research involves working directly with two potential bioenergy crops (switchgrass and Populus) to develop varieties that are easier to break down into fermentable sugars. We are using both testing and generation of large number of natural and modified plant samples as well as developing genomics tools for detailed studies into poorly understood cell wall biosynthesis pathways. BESC research in biomass deconstruction and conversion targets CBP by studying model organisms and thermophilic anaerobes to understand novel strategies and enzyme complexes for biomass deconstruction. BESC researchers in characterization, modeling, and data management areas are engaged in 1) applying advanced technologies to analyze chemical and structural changes within biomass and 2) storing, tracking, analyzing and integrating data and understanding across the center.