Bioenergy Science Center

Overcoming Recalcitrance

Biomass Formation and Modification

Enabling Technologies

Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion

Leading advancements in science and science-based innovation to remove economic barriers for cellulosic biofuels.



of 3 Centers




Patent Applications


Invention Disclosures

Journal Articles


  • Industry Collaborations

    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.
  • Education Outreach

    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

Keep up with BESC on our BLOG


July 15, 2015

Comparison of MethylC-seq and 4mC-TAB-seq.

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

Green: Fungal mycelia Red: Root cell membrane

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 total CO2 emissions from all sectors for the two degree transportation scenario

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

Kevin Wenger of Mascoma, a subsidiary of Lallemand, LLC and Paul Gilna of BESC

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 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

Glucose Regression Model

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

Dr. Liao received his Bachelor of Science degree at the National Taiwan University and his Doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

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 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

Genomes Sequenced

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.

February 01, 2015

Glycome Profiling of AFEX™ Pretreated Biomass Provides Insights into Plant Cell Wall Structure
AFEX™ pretreatment, in general, causes loosening of non-cellulosic glycans, especially xylans, in diverse biomass types resulting in a reduced recalcitrance. These effects of AFEX™ vary significantly depending on the type of biomass. Monitoring changes in cell wall glycan compositions and their relative extractability for untreated and pretreated plant biomass provide improved understanding of variations in structure and composition of plant cell walls that relate to the role(s) of matrix-polysaccharides in recalcitrance.

January 30, 2015

Production of lignofuels and electrofuels by extremely thermophilic microbes
Caldicellulosiruptor and Pyrococcus sp. could be potentially metabolically engineered to produce advanced biofuels compatible with existing infrastructure, generating so-called lignofuels and electrofuels, respectively. Thermophilic biomass degradation is more efficient, and thermophilic fuel synthesis affords the opportunity for simultaneous distillation of volatile products.

January 30, 2015

Novel approach to blocking H2 production increases Clostridium thermocellum ethanol yield
Approach allowed four hydrogenases to be simultaneously inactivated using only two mutations on the chromosome. Highest C. thermocellum ethanol yield reported so far shows promise for further yield improvement. Provides insight into redox balancing in C. thermocellum. Mutation demonstrates ethanol tolerance in C. thermocellum is more complicated than previously thought.

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Bioenergy Science Center one of three DOE BioEnergy Research Centers established by the U.S. Department of Energy.