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Our Mission

Removing recalcitrance as an economic barrier for sustainable cellulosic biofuels

Biomass recalcitrance is the primary barrier to efficiently and economically accessing fermentable sugars for advanced biofuels that will directly displace petroleum. Convinced that biotechnological approaches hold the most promise for achieving these breakthroughs, the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) is developing plants that are easier to deconstruct and microbes that more effectively convert lignocellulose into simple sugars.

Biomass Formation and Modification

BESC research involves working with two potential bioenergy crops (switchgrass and Populus) to develop varieties that are easier to break down into fermentable sugars and to understand how plant cell walls are formed and can be modified to improve sugar release.


Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion

BESC research in biomass deconstruction and conversion targets consolidated bioprocessing (a single-step process) by studying model organisms and thermophilic anaerobes to understand novel strategies and enzyme complexes for biomass deconstruction.


Enabling Technologies

BESC researchers in characterization, modeling, and data management areas are engaged in (1) applying advanced technologies to analyze chemical and structural changes within biomass, and (2) storing, tracking, analyzing, and integrating data and understanding across the center.


Current Highlights

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Nanoscale Imaging

BESC researchers are building and applying imaging technologies and platforms to characterize the structure of plant biomass at the molecular level and assess how it is affected by chemical pretreatment. [More]

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Leveraging Thermophiles for Biofuels

Because higher temperatures facilitate the deconstruction of lignin and release of simple sugars within plant biomass, thermophilic bacteria are promising candidates for biofuel production systems. [More]

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Understanding Microbes Informs Optimization

In addition to their natural ability to break down lignocellulose, C. thermocellum and C. bescii have the surprising capacity to extensively deconstruct biomass (especially grasses) after minimal or no chemical pretreatment, a typically harsh and expensive step in biofuel production. [More]

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Improving Tools for Studying Switchgrass

BESC has created a rapid, stable transformation protocol for switchgrass has improved the transformation efficiency from 20% to >90% and decreased the turnaround time for generation of new transformants from months to weeks. [More]

All Highlights…

Publications

  • 12/16/2014
    PvNAC1 and PvNAC2 are associated with leaf senescence and nirtrogen use efficiency in switchgrass [view document]
  • 12/12/2014
    Quality scores for 32,000 genomes [view document]
  • 12/03/2014
    A comparative multidimensional LC-MS proteomic analysis reveals mechanisms for furan aldehyde detoxification in Thermoanaerobacter pseudethanolicus 39E
  • 12/02/2014
    Vernalization and the chilling requirement to exit bud dormancy: shared or separate regulation?
  • 12/01/2014
    Why genetic modification of lignin leads to low-recalcitrance biomass [view document]

more publications