Cellulosic 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 cellulosic biofuels industry depends, in part, on developing specialized biofuel crops or feedstocks that are optimized for deconstruction into sugars and fermentation into biofuels and bioproducts.

Research Challenges:

  • Understanding the biosynthesis of matrix polysaccharides and its regulation
  • Understanding the structure and function of the plant cell wall
  • Engineering cell wall composition to facilitate conversion into biofuels and bioproducts
  • Understand the response of engineered bioenergy crops to abiotic and biotic stress and make the plants resilient to such stress
  • Understand the effect of engineering bioenergy crops on their interactions with beneficial microorganisms
  • Developing research tools to support plant biosystems design

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.

visit page Cell Wall Biology and Engineering

Cell Wall Biology and Engineering

Determining how plants make their cell walls and the role of cell wall polysaccharides in interactions with the environment.

visit page Plant Biosystems Design

Plant Biosystems Design

To develop tools for engineering of bioenergy crops and develop crops with improved composition.

visit page Plant Systems Biology

Plant Systems Biology

Taking a systems approach to understanding and engineering polysaccharide biosynthesis.