The renowned synthetic biologist will be given $1 million in funding to support bioenergy and bioproduct innovation.
-By Emily Scott Ten years ago, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced the opening of a brand new, 15,000-square-foot facility full of stainless steel state-of-the-art bioprocessing equipment – what we now know as the Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit, or ABPDU, was officially open for business. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy
Scientists from Berkeley Lab and Sandia National Laboratories have collaborated to develop a streamlined and efficient process for converting woody plant matter like forest overgrowth and agricultural waste – material that is currently burned either intentionally or unintentionally – into liquid biofuel.
Converting the tough fibers and complex sugars in plants into biofuels and other products could be humanity’s ticket to smarter materials, better medicines, and a petroleum-free, sustainable future. Hoping to discover new and improved ways of processing plant material for industrial purposes, scientists like Michelle O’Malley at UC Santa Barbara and the Joint BioEnergy Institute have been studying the gut microbiomes of the planet’s most prolific herbivores: ruminant animals such as goats.
Scientists have determined the structure of a unique enzyme, produced by a species of methane-eating bacteria, that converts the greenhouse gas into methanol – a highly versatile liquid fuel and industrial product ingredient.
Farmers have enough worries – between bad weather, rising costs, and shifting market demands – without having to stress about the carbon footprint of their operations. But now a new set of projects by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory could make agriculture both more sustainable and more profitable.
One strategy to make biofuels more competitive is to make plants do some of the work themselves. Scientists can engineer plants to produce valuable chemical compounds, or bioproducts, as they grow. Then the bioproducts can be extracted from the plant and the remaining plant material can be converted into fuel. But one important part of this strategy has remained unclear — exactly how much of a particular bioproduct would plants need to make in order to make the process economically feasible?
Biomanufacturing – harnessing biological processes in cells and microbes to design and manufacture products – is revolutionizing how we make everything from futuristic consumer goods to sustainable fuels to breakthrough medicines. Every biomanufactured product can be traced back to discoveries in the lab, but translating that science into a real-world product can be tricky. Berkeley Lab is helping to move great ideas, like outdoor gear made from algae oil, from conception to commercialization.
As the need for energy security grows, scientists are investigating nonfood biomass sources that can be used to create valuable biofuels and bioproducts. Among these sources is municipal solid waste (MSW) — in other words, trash that’s produced every day around the world in significant amounts.
Adapted from an original release published by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Read the full story here Plant cell walls contain a renewable, nearly-limitless supply of sugar that can be used as a carbon source for microbe-based chemical and biofuel production. However, retrieving these sugars isn’t all that easy. Imidazolium ionic liquid (IIL) solvents are some