Biomass Formation and Modification
Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion
Promise of Unusual Lignin Polymer as Feedstock for Carbon Fiber
Stronger, Lighter Carbon Fiber Could Be Used in Parts for Cars, Aircraft, Electronics, and Sports Equipment
BESC researchers discovered an unusual lignin polymer in the seed coats of vanilla beans (pictured) that is naturally biosynthesized from caffeyl (C) alcohol. In contrast to lignin polymers that are highly cross-linked, C-lignin is a linear polymer, which makes it easier to process into high-quality carbon fibers. [Image courtesy iStock]Read More
Identification of Poplar Adaptation Mechanisms
Findings Could Lead to More Efficient Ways of Breeding High-Ethanol-Yielding Poplar and Other Tree Species
Using whole-genome sequencing and high-throughput phenotyping, BESC researchers were able to rapidly pinpoint gene mutations responsible for causing low lignin levels in poplar trees planted in a variety of environmental conditions. This proof-of-concept will allow researchers to tag genes associated with other economically important but complex plant traits. [Image courtesy BESC]Read More
Beneficial Plant Gene Discovery
Research Lays Groundwork for New Ways of Manipulating Plants
BESC researchers discovered a previously uncharacterized gene (GXMT1), which directs a key step in the development of xylan, a principal component of cell walls in plants such as Arabidopsis (pictured). Characterizing this gene, which makes the plant resistant to biofuel conversion, will lead to improved strategies for modifying such cell wall structures to help turn plants into biofuel more efficiently. [Image courtesy iStock]Read More
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 education program, which is 75% self-sustaining, 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
September 01, 2015
Engineering of a Thermophilic, Cellulolytic Microbe to Produce an Advanced Biofuel
Production of isobutanol from cellulose in minimal medium achieved 5.4 g/L titer and roughly 41% of theoretical yield. This result successfully demonstrates the advantages of using a consolidates bioprocessing approach to produce an advanced biofuel. This is a measureable and significant step towards commercially relevant titers and yields. Isobutanol can be utilized as a "drop-in" biofuel, as a substrate for upgrading into hydrocarbon fuels, or as a feedstock for other bioproducts.
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), (...more)
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
Transport energy use by fuel and year, displaced CO2 emissions by fuel and year, and tota (...more)
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™ — 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.