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New Way to Reduce Plant Lignin Could Lead to Cheaper Biofuels

This illustration shows the molecular structure of HCT that was derived at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source. The purple and green areas are two domains of the enzyme, and the multi-colored structures between the two domains are two molecules (p-coumaryl-shikimate and HS-CoA) in the binding site. New research shows this binding site is indiscriminate with the acceptor molecules it recruits, including molecules that inhibit lignin production. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Scientists have shown that an enzyme can be tweaked to reduce lignin in plants. Their technique could help lower the cost of converting biomass into carbon-neutral fuels to power your car and other sustainably developed bio-products.

Seeing the Big Picture in Photosynthetic Light Harvesting

Through the miracle of photosynthesis, plants absorb sunlight in their leaves and convert the photonic energy into chemical energy that is stored as sugars in the plants’ biomass. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Berkeley Lab scientists have created the first computational model that simulates the light-harvesting activity of thousands of antenna proteins that would interact in the chloroplast of an actual leaf. The results point the way to improving the yields of food and fuel crops, and developing artificial photosynthesis technologies for next generation solar energy systems.

One-Stop Shop for Biofuels

Blake and Seema featured

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a “high-gravity” one-pot process for producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass that gives unprecedented yields while minimizing water use and waste disposal.

How to Train Your Bacterium

Peidong solar feature

Berkeley Lab researchers are using the bacterium Moorella thermoacetica to perform photosynthesis and also to synthesize semiconductor nanoparticles in a hybrid artificial photosynthesis system for converting sunlight into valuable chemical products.

JBEI Joins Elite 100/500 Club

jbei-logo Feature 1

The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is now a member of the elite “100/500 Club,” having filed its 100th patent application and published its 500th scientific paper. JBEI is a DOE Bioenergy Research Center led by Berkeley Lab.

Another Milestone in Hybrid Artificial Photosynthesis

Peidong Yang CJC Bioinorganic Solar to Chemical Text

Berkeley Lab researchers using a bioinorganic hybrid approach to artificial photosynthesis have combined semiconducting nanowires with select microbes to create a system that produces renewable molecular hydrogen and uses it to synthesize carbon dioxide into methane, the primary constituent of natural gas.

Unlocking the Rice Immune System

Rice is a staple for half the world’s population and the model plant for grass-type biofuel feedstocks (Photo courtesy of IRRI)

JBEI, UC Davis and Berkeley Lab researchers have identified a bacterial signaling molecule that triggers an immunity response in rice plants, enabling the plants to resist a devastating blight disease. Rice is not only a staple food, it is the model for grass-type advanced biofuels.

Orange is the New Red

Corie Ralston and Cheryl Kerfield feature image

Berkeley Lab researchers discovered that a photoprotective mechanism in cyanobacteria is triggered by an unprecedented, large-scale movement from one location to another of the carotenoid pigment within the Orange Carotenoid Protein.

Leaving on a Biofueled Jet Plane

Air travels accounts for about two-percent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. A new catalytic process for biofuels could significantly reduce this figure. (courtesy of Boeing)

Researchers at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) have developed a catalytic process for converting sugarcane biomass into a new class of aviation fuel and lubricant base oils that could help biorefineries achieve net life-cycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 80-percent.

CLAIRE Brings Electron Microscopy to Soft Materials

CLAIRE image of Al nanostructures with an inset that shows a cluster of six Al nanostructures.

Berkeley Lab researchers, working at the Molecular Foundry, have invented a technique called “CLAIRE” that extends the incredible resolution of electron microscopy to the non-invasive nanoscale imaging of soft matter, including biomolecules, liquids, polymers, gels and foams.