Posts by Helen Whitaker

Journal Development Manager, BioMed Central

A sorghum solution to meeting renewable fuel targets

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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 …

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Maintaining impact in 2013

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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 …

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Yeast factories: engineering bioethanol production through evolution

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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 …

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News from 35th SBFC

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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 …

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Biotechnology for Biofuels at 35th SBFC

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Portland_and_Mt_Hood

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, …

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Cell wall degrading enzymes in a new class of their own

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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

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Special issue on pretreatment and fractionation of biomass for biofuels/biorefining

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Biotechnology for Biofuels is pleased to announce a special issue from the NSERC Bioconversion Network – a collaboration of academic and industry leaders, aimed at developing bio-based chemical and fuel products from forest biomass.

Edited by Jack Saddler and Linoj Kumar, the special issue brings together findings from a recent workshop, focusing on the pretreatment and fractionation of biomass for biofuels and biorefining. In an introductory Editorial, our guest editors provide an interesting report on the workshop, that covered discussion topics from fundamental science to challenges in commercialisation.

A major aim of the network is to exploit the production of high value chemical products, as well as bulk fuels from lignocellulosic biomass, so that bioproducts …

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Algal biofuels? Think bigger

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fucus Stemonitis wikipedia

The production of biodiesel from single-celled microalgae has been receiving renewed research attention, as evidenced by a growth spurt in publications on microalgal biofuel this year. Meanwhile, Scottish researchers working on the Biomara project argue that coastal temperate regions should make fuel from macroalgae (seaweed) instead.

In a recent article published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, Adam Hughes and colleagues review the technological advances and requirements for cultivation of seaweed, for anaerobic conversion into biogas, principally methane. Seaweed culture techniques have been advancing in China in the last 50 years, to the point that seaweed grown for food and other high-value bio-products is now China’s biggest aquaculture business.

The main advantages of marine based seaweed cultivation for biofuel are …

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Seeding the next generation of fuel crops

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For biofuels to become more sustainable, lignocellulosic biomass from trees, grasses and plant stems is an appealing alternative to resource-heavy energy crops such as canola and maize. However, the high lignin content of second generation feedstocks makes them naturally recalcitrant to processing into fuel. While chemical engineers, microbiologists and enzymologists have made strides to overcome these issues, plant biologists are increasingly employed to create fuel crops that will profit the biofuel industry.

Biotechnology for Biofuels is pleased to announce a special thematic series focusing on the development of crops for enhanced fuel production. The series covers genetic improvement of plant biomass traits to increase bio-production and benefit downstream processes such as enzymatic conversion, fermentation, pyrolysis and gasification.

An undesirable trait …

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Do you feel demonised?

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The formal EU proposal and 5% cap on land use for biofuel production was announced this week – closely followed by a backlash from the biofuels industry and environmental groups alike. Environmentalists are disappointed that the new legislation does not go far enough.  The EU will require reporting on the indirect land use cost (iLUC) of biofuels production, however, the fuel producer will not be held accountable or penalised for iLUC.  The proposal also fails to restrict the amount of first generation fuel that can be consumed. Meanwhile, the concern of the biofuels industry is that the swing in policy will derail investment and employment, encouraged under the 2009 directive.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Clare Wenner …

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