Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Energy News  




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



BIO FUEL
Sandia speeds transformation of biofuel waste into wealth
by Staff Writers
Livermore CA (SPX) Nov 13, 2017


Sandia National Laboratories bioengineer Seema Singh examines a tobacco plant that has been genetically engineered for the easy extraction of important chemicals.

A Sandia National Laboratories-led team has demonstrated faster, more efficient ways to turn discarded plant matter into chemicals worth billions. The team's findings could help transform the economics of making fuels and other products from domestically grown renewable sources.

Lignin, the tough material left over from biofuel production, contains compounds that can be converted into products like nylon, plastics and drugs. It is one of the main components of plant cell walls, and gives plants structural integrity as well as protection from microbial attacks.

Products made from converted lignin could subsidize biofuel production, making the cost of biofuels more competitive with petroleum. Unfortunately, lignin's toughness also makes it difficult to extract its valuable compounds. Scientists have wrestled for decades with deconstructing it. As a result, lignin often sits unused in giant piles.

Sandia bioengineer Seema Singh and her team have demonstrated two new routes to lignin conversion that combine the advantages of earlier methods while minimizing their drawbacks. The team's recent findings are described in the journal Scientific Reports.

A chemical and biological hybrid path forward
To break the bonds between compounds that make up lignin, scientists have either employed chemicals or tiny organisms such as bacteria or fungi. The gentler biological methods do enable the production of specific targeted compounds. But to fully break down lignin using this approach can take weeks or even months.

Conversely, harsh chemicals can deconstruct lignin in hours or even minutes. But this method requires expensive catalysts and is sometimes toxic, and therefore unsustainable. Worse, chemical methods lead to a mixture of compounds that each appear in extremely small quantities.

"You get a little bit of whole lot of various chemicals when you break down lignin this way," explained Singh. "The quantities yielded are not terribly useful."

Her team has demonstrated two new techniques that incorporate the speed of a chemical method and the precision of a biological one. In both cases, Singh's team ultimately produced high-value chemicals that currently are derived only from petroleum: muconic acid and pyrogallol.

Muconic acid can easily be turned into nylon, plastics, resins or lubricants, and pyrogallol has anti-cancer applications. Together, Singh reports these chemicals have a combined market value of $255.7 billion. "Muconic acid is what we call a platform chemical. From there, creating new products is really just a matter of imagination," she said.

Bioengineering further shortens the conversion process
The team's first new conversion method is a multi-stage process that begins by pre-treating lignin with a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Intermediary molecules vanillin and syringate result from the treatment.

A strain of E. coli specially modified by Sandia microbiologist Weihua Wu then consumes these middle-stage compounds, several additional compounds emerge in the mix, and ultimately the process results in the two final chemicals.

However, Singh was not satisfied with the amount of muconic acid yielded from this process. So, she and her team challenged themselves to find a way to maximize their muconic acid yield, and tested a second conversion method.

The second method skips the process of having to break down the lignin altogether. Instead, the team genetically engineered a tobacco plant. As it grows, the plant produces high amounts of intermediate compound protocatechuate. Then, the only steps remaining were to extract that PCA and use the engineered E. coli to make the muconic acid.

"We basically skipped three quarters of the steps we were doing previously by engineering the plant to grow intermediate chemicals," Singh enthused. "PCA can be easily extracted from the modified tobacco and converted into muconic acid with little effort."

This plant engineering route is not only more efficient, but it also successfully solves the team's self-imposed challenge of maximizing muconic acid yield by as much as 34 percent over previous conversion methods.

Hybrid methods are key to future efforts
Sandia funded the majority of the work on this project through its Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. The tobacco plant engineering work was done by Singh's collaborators from the feedstock division at the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, Calif., including Dominique Loque and Aymerick Eudes.

Singh directs the biomass pretreatment program at the institute, which is staffed by scientists from a consortium of laboratories including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She believes future research into increasing lignin's economic value will be heavily influenced by her team's demonstrations.

The biggest challenge in this field will be further maximizing the yield of valuable chemicals, and the rate at which they can be yielded. "Everyone understands that hybrid approaches are key to lignin valorization," Singh said.

Industrial adoption of this technology will depend on the ability to quickly produce large amounts of high-value product. "If you can only make milligram amounts in a month from a bug, that just won't cut it," Singh said. "You want the organisms to make kilogram amounts in less than an hour, ideally."

Research paper

BIO FUEL
Study identifies additional hurdle to widespread planting of bioenergy crops
Indianapolis IN (SPX) Nov 06, 2017
A study examining how certain decisions impact what farmers plant and harvest identified one crucial factor that researchers believe needs to be added to the list of decision variables when considering bioenergy crops: the option value. Most studies have not examined the role of the option value, which has to do with farmers waiting to see how bioenergy crop prices will change in the futur ... read more

Related Links
Sandia National Laboratories
Bio Fuel Technology and Application News


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

BIO FUEL
China Saves the World, and America Too by Going Off-The-Grid

In Morocco, a blue tourist town is turning green

Mechanochemistry paves the way to higher quality perovskite photovoltaics

OMCO Solar expands to met demand for field-fast racking systems

BIO FUEL
An effective solution for collecting spilled petroleum

Oil price response to OPEC report on demand muted

Statoil makes headway with Barents Sea field development

Iraq targets 1 million bpd output for disputed Kirkuk oilfields

BIO FUEL
Developing world says rich nations shirking on climate

Cities can cut greenhouse gas emissions far beyond their urban borders

Syria to join Paris climate pact, isolating US

EU to cut car emissions to meet climate targets, rival China

BIO FUEL
Scientists make progress in quest for fusion energy

Cool textiles to beat the heat

A novel layered superconductor based on tin and arsenic

Scientists design smart paper capable of detecting water, conducting electricity

BIO FUEL
Sandia speeds transformation of biofuel waste into wealth

Study identifies additional hurdle to widespread planting of bioenergy crops

Penn researchers mimic giant clams to enhance the production of biofuel

Research aims to help renewable jet fuel take flight

BIO FUEL
Uber IPO 'target' is 2019: CEO

Vehicle emissions per driver on the rise, study finds

EV corridor will stretch from Norway to Italy

Ford, Chinese firm to invest $756 million on electric cars

BIO FUEL
Fresh EU bid fails to renew controversial weedkiller

France to oppose EU's 5-year renewal for weedkiller glyphosate

Together for more food safety in Europe and its neighboring countries

Extreme dining in Shanghai: French chef's twist on haute cuisine

BIO FUEL
A new way to mix oil and water

Building better silk

Measuring atoms for better navigation and mineral detection

Discovery of a new structure family of oxide-ion conductors SrYbInO4




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement