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

BER Research Highlights


Improving Access to Cellulose in Biomass for Biofuel Production
Published: September 07, 2010
Posted: September 10, 2010

The conversion of cellulosic biomass to fermentable sugars usually requires a costly and time-consuming pretreatment step to increase the material's porosity, decrease its crystallinity and reduce the amount of structural lignin in the cell wall. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have used small angle neutron scattering (SANS) to probe the morphological changes of switchgrass cell walls during dilute acid pretreatment. When the pretreatment temperature is in the vicinity of the glass transition temperature of lignin (the temperature at which lignin transforms from a liquid to a glass-like material), they find that the lignin rapidly redistributes on the surface of the cellulose as large aggregates that can be washed away with solvent. The underlying cellulose does not break down and is readily available for cellulose degradation by enzymatic hydrolysis (both desirable features) but appears to form a more crystalline structure (an undesirable feature). This work provides an alternative approach for efficient hemicellulose and lignin removal, improving the quantity and accessibility of cellulose but in a form (crystalline fibrils) that is not optimal for enzymatic hydrolysis. The research has just been published online in the journal Biomacromolecules. This work is sponsored by DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research.

Reference: V. Pingali, et al., “Breakdown of Cell Wall Nanostructure in Dilute Acid Pretreated Biomass,” Biomacromolecules, (August 20, 2010)

Contact: Susan Gregurick, SC-23.2, (301) 903-7672
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: Structural Biology, Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure

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

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)