Cellulose research could boost biofuel production
New insights into how plants build cellulose could have import implications for the production of biofuels, according to new research from Penn State University.
"Cellulose is the single most abundant biopolymer on earth," said Ying Gu, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State and senior author of the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a statement from the university. "It makes up about 95% of paper and 90% of cotton, and its derivatives are even in the emulsifiers in ice cream. In the past 10 years or so, cellulose has also been considered as a major component of biofuels. Understanding how cellulose is synthesized may allow us to optimise its use as a renewable energy source."
Gu and colleagues’ study aimed to advance the understanding of how plants create cellulose. Through their research, the scientists gained insights into components that may contribute to the speed which the cellulose synthase complex travels to a cell’s outer membrane before synthesis.
The research team thinks they will be able to translate what they know about how plant cells build cellulose to more efficiently break it apart again for use in biofuels, ultimately increasing the efficiency of biomass-based energy production.