Lignocellulosic biomass – consisting of complex polymers cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin in the cell walls of plants – is the most abundant organic material on Earth. With the right technology, cellulosic biomass can be converted into replacement fuels for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, and into many valuable bioproducts.
Building a successful biofuel and bioproducts industry depends, in part, on developing specialized biofuel crops or feedstocks that are optimized for deconstruction into sugars and fermentation into biofuels and bioproducts.
JBEI researchers in the Feedstocks Division are working on understanding plant cell wall biosynthesis and developing plants with improved properties for high sugar, low lignin, and yield of biofuels and bioproducts. The goal is to develop bioenergy crops that can thrive with little fertilization or irrigation on land not suitable for growing food crops. Feedstocks researchers are focusing most of the efforts on sorghum, a promising crop for biofuel production. Additional work is done in poplar and switchgrass.
- The complex composition of biomass is a challenge for deconstruction and conversion
- Tools for predictive biology and rational engineering of bioenergy crops are inadequate
- The next generation of bioenergy crops must be high yielding and resilient to environmental stress and disease
- Develop a fundamental understanding of cell wall biology
- Develop tools to facilitate bioenergy crop improvement
- Engineer bioenergy crops with improved biomass and sustainability traits
- Ensure that engineered bioenergy crops are robust and sustainable