Cellulose and chitin are the most abundant polymers on Earth and their potential is vast for the biofuel industry. Cellulose is the major component of plant cell walls and its degradation into sugars is at the core of biofuels production. Chitin forms much of the shells of crustaceans, exoskeletons of insects and even butterfly wings and has major potential for making bioplastics in a sustainable fashion.
To harness this potential, the polymers need to be broken down. Unfortunately, they are notoriously resistant, requiring the enzymatic power of cellulases and chitinases. We need to be able to identify the most efficient and powerful of these enzymes in a high-throughput manner. However, this can be difficult. The current assays used are not …
From plastic bags to nylon to fuels, ethylene is a key ingredient in a vast variety of production processes. This widespread use has made ethylene the most produced organic compound in the world.
The chemical industry needs ethylene, and this demand is currently being kept at bay by its production from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are finite. Moreover, the process plays a role in climate change; taking carbon that’s locked underground and releasing some into the atmosphere. Ethylene production represents the largest CO2-emitting process in the chemical industry.
The case is clear. We need a renewable route to produce ethylene- to meet the ever growing global demand and reduce the significant environmental impact.
Ethylene is produced naturally by plants and …
The cell walls in wood, with their abundant lignocellulose, are a vast source of renewable biomass. To make this woody biomass a usable source, however, these raw materials require conversion into simple sugars, and then further processing by microorganisms into ethanol and other bioproducts.
The major limiting factor for this process is resistance to the saccharification (conversion into the simple sugars). A complex matrix of polymers, such as pectin, make these wood cell walls inaccessible to degrading enzymes and chemicals, preventing their efficient breakdown into sugars.
In a recent study published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, Biswal and colleagues have found that aspen which over expresses pectate lyase (an enzyme that degrades pectin) is easier to breakdown into sugars. When …
Biotechnology for Biofuels is pleased to announce a thematic series from the 20th International Symposium on Alcohol Fuels (ISAF 2013), held from 25 to 27 March 2013 at Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Guest edited by Emile van Zyl (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa), the thematic series brings together findings from ISAF 2013, where the current status of alcohol technologies and their applications were discussed, alongside the role of alcohol fuels in enabling sustainable future development.
In an introductory Editorial, the guest editor presents an interesting report of the conference, providing background and perspective, with a special focus on the issues Africa faces in adopting bioenergy in a sustainable manner.
The thematic series captures recent advances in conversion technologies for a …
This post was originally featured on BioMed Central’s magazine Biome.
Grasses belonging to the genus Sorghum are grown on a large scale in the United States, mainly as animal feed. However, in light of drives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sorghum has also been grown as a biofuel. Sorghum crops have potential benefits over corn as alternative feedstocks for biofuel production, since they are drought tolerant and can be grown on marginal lands. In a recent study published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, Michael Wang and colleagues from the Argonne National Laboratories, USA, present a life cycle analysis to model the inputs and outputs involved in the cultivation, transport, processing and use of sorghum-derived ethanol as a vehicle …
Following last month’s publication of the 2012 Journal Citation Reports (Thomson Reuters), the Impact Factor for Biotechnology for Biofuels is 5.55, maintaining the journal’s position as the highest impact journal that fully focuses upon biofuels research. Biotechnology for Biofuels has grown rapidly over the past year, publishing top quality research on a broad range of topics, including plant feedstock development, pretreatment, bioconversion, bio-based chemical production, algal biofuels and techno-economics.
Overseen by the Editors-in-Chief, Michael Himmel, James du Preez, Debra Mohnen and Charles Wyman, Biotechnology for Biofuels is supported by an expert panel of Associate Editors, who are responsible for peer-review and editorial decision making for the journal. After our board meeting in April, we …
This post was originally featured on BioMed Central’s magazine Biome.
In order to create truly sustainable biofuels, researchers are investigating methods to produce bioethanol from waste plant dry matter, such as wood and straw, known as lignocellulosic feedstocks. The industrial yeast (S. cerevisiae) already used to make bioethanol from glucose-rich crops, such as maize and sugar cane, is not efficient at fermenting the pentose sugars (D-xylose and L-arabinose) found in waste lignocellulosic feedstocks. The woody parts of plants are also resistant to enzymatic degradation and require thermochemical pretreatment to release fermentable sugars. This additional step has the undesirable side effect of producing inhibitors to downstream enzymatic conversions. In a recent study published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, Johan Thevelein …
Biotechnology for Biofuels attended the 35th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals (29th April – 1st May) hosted by the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (SIMB).
Jim McMillan (NREL, meeting co-organizer and Associate Editor for Biotechnology for Biofuels) opened the meeting. He mentioned the long history of the Symposium and how in recent years, the scope had become broader to include bio-based chemicals. Jim also spoke of climate change and the growing need for renewable biofuels. The opening keynote speaker, Lee Lynd (Dartmouth, MASCOMA corp.), focused upon cellulosic fuels and addressed three key questions/challenges faced by biofuels industry based around need, economics and land. Professor Lynd gave an interesting overview of sustainable intensification of land use …
Biotechnology for Biofuels will be exhibiting at 35th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals next week (29th April – 1st May). As a special conference of the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (SIMB), this year’s symposium will be held in Portland, Oregon, hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The conference will span three and a half days, with technical topics covering feedstocks and conversion sciences, process development and biorefinery, as well as commercialization and sustainability. Our Associate Editor for Biotechnology for Biofuels, Jim McMillan, is one of the symposium organizers, whilst many of our Editorial Board Members have long associations with the symposium and will be in attendance. On Tuesday 30th April, …
Carbohydrate active enzymes are typically found in fungi including white rot, brown rot and plant pathogenic fungi. These micro-organisms degrade the complex matrix of the plant cell wall containing lignin, hemicelluloses, cellulose, polysacchariades and pectin. Since 1998, the CAZy database has carefully curated data on five families of carbohydrate active enzymes: glycoside hydrolases (GH), glycosyltransferases (GT), polysaccharide lyases (PL), carbohydrate esterases (CE), and carbohydrate-binding modules (CBM).
The recent discovery that some members of the CBM and GH enzyme families share a mode of action, as lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMO), has led the curators of CAZy to make a major update to the database. In their publication in Biotechnology for Biofuels, Levasseur and colleagues …