Navigation Links
Neutrons helping ORNL researchers unlock secrets to cheaper ethanol
Date:9/15/2010

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sept. 15, 2010 -- New insight into the structure of switchgrass and poplars is fueling discussions that could result in more efficient methods to turn biomass into biofuel.

Researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Georgia Tech used small-angle neutron scattering to probe the structural impact of an acid pretreatment of lignocellulose from switchgrass. Pretreatment is an essential step to extract cellulose, which can through a series of enzymatic procedures be converted into sugars and then ethanol. The findings, published in Biomacromolecules, could help scientists identify the most effective pretreatment strategy and lower the cost of the biomass conversion process.

"My hope is that this paper and subsequent discussions about our observations will lead to a better understanding of the complex mechanisms of lignocellulose breakdown," said co-author Volker Urban of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division.

A key finding is that native switchgrass that has been pretreated with hot dilute sulfuric acid undergoes significant morphological changes. While the data demonstrate that the switchgrass materials are very similar at length scales greater than 1,000 angstroms, the materials are profoundly different at shorter lengths. An angstrom is equal to 1/10th of a nanometer.

Specifically, Urban and colleagues discovered that the diameter of the crystalline portion of a cellulose fibril increases from about 21 angstroms before treatment to 42 angstroms after treatment. Also, they learned that lignin concurrently undergoes a redistribution process and forms aggregates, or droplets, which are 300 angstroms to 400 angstroms in size.

"Our study suggests that hot dilute sulfuric acid pretreatment effectively decreases recalcitrance by making cellulose more accessible to enzymes through lignin redistribution and hemi-cellulose removal," Urban said. Recalcitrance refers to a plant's robustness, or natural defenses to being chemically dismantled.

Unfortunately, the apparent increase in cellulose microfibril diameter may indicate a cellulose re-annealing that would be counterproductive and may limit the efficiency of the dilute sulfuric acid pretreatment process, the researchers reported.

"Ultimately, the ability to extract meaningful structural information from different native and pretreated biomass samples will enable evaluation of various pretreatment protocols for cost-effective biofuels production," Urban said.

Small-angle neutron scattering measurements were performed at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor and analyzed using the unified fit approach, a mathematic model that allows simultaneous evaluation of the different levels of hierarchical organization that are present in biomass.


'/>"/>

Contact: Ron Walli
wallira@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Neutrons poised to play big role in future scientific advance
2. Helping the brains messengers get from A to B
3. New psychological intervention program shows promise in helping those with bowel diseases
4. Helping hearts, spinal cords and tendons heal themselves
5. Helping the NRC look below the surface
6. New insights into helping marine species cope with climate change
7. Texas AgriLife researchers helping
8. Tennessee foresters helping to return chestnuts to American forests
9. Energy experts helping Australian households reduce carbon emissions
10. Green IT not helping climate change
11. Satellites helping aid workers in Honduras
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/26/2016)... and LONDON , April ... part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of ... today announced a partnership to integrate the Onegini ...      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) ... their customers enhanced security to access and transact ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... 2016 Research and Markets has ... Market 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... ,The global gait biometrics market is expected to ... period 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates multiple ... used to compute factors that are not or ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... -- Genomics firm Nabsys has completed a financial  restructuring under ... M.D., who returned to the company in October 2015. ... including Chief Technology Officer, John Oliver , Ph.D., ... Vice President of Software and Informatics, Michael Kaiser ... Bready served as CEO of Nabsys from 2005-2014 and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... ... Michael Fitzmaurice recently became double board-certified in surgery and surgery of the hand ... Dr. Fitzmaurice is no stranger to going above and beyond in his pursuit ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... Scientists at ... line options being tried for mesothelioma may be hampering the research that could lead ... research. Click here to read it now. , The team evaluated 98 ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... 25, 2016 , ... Lady had been battling arthritis since the age of ... left knee. Lady’s owner Hannah sought the help of Dr Jeff Christiansen of ... her cruciate ligament and help with the pain of Lady’s arthritis. Dr Christiansen suggested ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... ... May 24, 2016 , ... Cell therapies for a range ... by research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) that yielded a newly patented method ... , The novel method, developed by WPI faculty members Raymond Page, PhD, professor ...
Breaking Biology Technology: