This figure depicts some key processing steps in an artist’s conception of a future large-scale facility for transforming cellulosic biomass (plant fibers) into biofuels. Three areas where focused biological research can lead to much lower costs and increased productivity include developing crops dedicated to biofuel production (see step 1), engineering enzymes that deconstruct cellulosic biomass (see steps 2 and 3), and engineering microbes and developing new microbial enzyme systems for industrial-scale conversion of biomass sugars into ethanol and other biofuels or bioproducts (see step 4). Biological research challenges associated with each production step are summarized in the right portion of the figure.
Credit or Source: Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. science.energy.gov/ber/
US DOE. 2009. Bioenergy Research Centers: An Overview of the Science, DOE/SC-0116, US Department of Energy.