U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Hybrid Spectroscopy Helps Elucidate Fine Cell Wall Structure
Published: August 10, 2015
Posted: August 12, 2015

A key obstacle to large-scale production of biofuels is the resistance of biomass to deconstruction into simple biomolecules that can be converted to the desired fuels. This so-called recalcitrance is being studied intensively at the cellular level. Non-destructive, simultaneous chemical and physical characterization of materials at the nanoscale is a highly sought-after capability for understanding the underlying mechanisms of this cell wall recalcitrance to deconstruction. However, a combination of physical limitations of existing nanoscale technologies has made achieving this goal challenging. To overcome these obstacles, researchers at the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) have developed a hybrid approach for nanoscale material characterization based on nanomechanical force microscopy in conjunction with infrared photoacoustic spectroscopy. The researchers targeted the outstanding problem of spatially and spectrally resolving plant cell walls. Nanoscale characterization of plant cell walls and the effect of complex phenotype treatments on biomass are challenging but necessary in the search for sustainable and renewable bioenergy. The BESC scientists were able to reveal both the morphological and compositional substructures of the cell walls. They found that the measured biomolecular traits are in agreement with the lower-resolution chemical maps obtained with infrared and confocal Raman microspectroscopies of the same samples. These results should prove relevant in fields such as energy production and storage, as well as medical research, where morphological, chemical, and subsurface studies of nanocomposites, nanoparticle uptake by cells, and nanoscale quality control are in demand.

Reference: Tetard, L., A. Passian, R. H. Farahi, T. Thundat, and B. H. Davison. 2015 “Opto-Nanomechanical Spectroscopic Material Characterization,” Nature Nanotechnology, DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2015.168. (Reference link)

Contact: Kent Peters, SC-23.2, (301) 903-5549
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)
  • Research Area: Structural Biology, Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)