Degradation of lignocellulosic materials in biomass is a critical step in production of biofuels, but the process is also extraordinarily difficult to follow experimentally in real time. A new technique, Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) microscopy, overcomes some of the limitations of existing technologies for imaging the degradation of biomass. SRS microscopy enables improved measurement of cellulose and lignin distribution at the surface and varying depths in plant cell walls. Developed by Sunney Xie of Harvard University with DOE funding, SRS microscopy is being used in collaboration with scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to image changes in plant cell walls during their degradation. SRS microscopy will make it easier to follow cellulose and lignin as cell wall degradation proceeds. The new technique is the subject of a feature article in the June 4, 2009, issue of Nature.
Reference: H. Ledford, "The Naked Microscope," Nature (2009) 49, 636.
Contact: Arthur Katz, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4932
SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
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