Our Mission

Removing Recalcitrance as an Economic Barrier for Sustainable Cellulosic Biofuels

The resistance of plant biomass to degradation (biomass recalcitrance) is the primary barrier impeding economical access to fermentable sugars that can be converted into advanced biofuels that replace petroleum. Convinced that biotechnological approaches hold the most promise for achieving breakthroughs to overcome the recalcitrance barrier, the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) is developing plants that are easier to deconstruct and microbes that more effectively convert lignocellulose into simple sugars. This research is centered on three focus areas: (1) biomass formation and modification, (2) biomass dconstruction and conversion, and (3) enabling technologies.

Biomass Formation and Modification

BESC research involves working with two potential bioenergy crops (switchgrass and poplar) 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 (CBP) by studying model organisms and thermophilic anaerobes to understand novel strategies and enzyme complexes for biomass deconstruction. CPB is a single-step process to both deconstruct biomass and ferment resulting sugars to fuels.


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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Identification of key transcription factor that controls chlorophyll degradation and leaf senescence

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New Insights into Biomass Deconstruction from Deletion of Genes in Caldicellulosiruptor

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Rapid gene discovery and validation using the BESC Populus association population

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Characterization of various alkaline pretreatment methods on cellulose structure and accessibility (A joint BESC/ORNL Biofuels SFA effort)

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BESC Novel Approach to Bioenergy Outreach and Education

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Switchgrass transcription factors linked to nutrient efficiency in senescence

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Toward improving tolerance of thermophilic microorganisms to pretreatment inhibitors

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Field performance of modified switchgrass demonstrates a 'Goldilocks Effect'

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High-Performance Computing Delineates Chemistry of Lignin Synthesis

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Review paper summarizes insights from 20 years of bacterial genome sequencing

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Release of a genome dataset comprised of results from multiple sequencing modalities

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Highlights Archive

Publications

  • 06/01/2015
    Complete Genome Sequences of Caldicellulosiruptor sp. Strain Rt8.B8, Caldicellulosiruptor sp. Strain Wai35.B1, and “Thermoanaerobacter cellulolyticus” [ view document]
  • 05/14/2015
    The impact of biotechnological advances on the future of U.S. bioenergy [ view document]
  • 05/01/2015
    Genome sequence of halomonas sp. strain KO116 an ionic liquid-tolerant marine bacterium isolated from a lignin-enriched seawater microcosm [document not available]
  • 04/23/2015
    How cell wall complexity influences saccharificatin efficiency in Miscanthus sinensis [ view document]
  • 04/15/2015
    High-throughput method for determining the sugar contant in biomass with pyrolysis molecular beam mass spectrometry [ view document]

more publications