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:5/16/2017)... , May 16, 2017  Veratad Technologies, LLC ( ... online age and identity verification solutions, announced today they ... Conference 2017, May 15 thru May 17, 2017, in ... and International Trade Center. Identity impacts ... and in today,s quickly evolving digital world, defining identity ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... Janice Kephart , former 9/11 ... Partners, LLP (IdSP) , today issues the following ... March 6, 2017 Executive Order: Protecting the ... be instilled with greater confidence, enabling the reactivation ... applications are suspended by until at least July ...
(Date:4/17/2017)... , April 17, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... announces the filing of its 2016 Annual Report on Form 10-K ... Commission. ... 10-K is available in the Investor Relations section of the Company,s ... the SEC,s website at http://www.sec.gov . 2016 Year ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/23/2017)... ... May 23, 2017 , ... Energetiq ... has announced a facility expansion to accommodate its rapid growth. , The renovations ... workspace and renovation of the existing areas. The expansion includes, a state-of-the-art engineering ...
(Date:5/22/2017)... ... ... Stratevi, a boutique firm that partners with healthcare companies to creatively develop ... in downtown Boston at 745 Atlantic Ave. , “We are seeing that even ... the value they provide, not just to patients, but also payers. Having a presence ...
(Date:5/19/2017)... Shirley, New York (PRWEB) , ... May 19, 2017 , ... ... therapy techniques in treating gait disorders, Biodex Medical Systems, Inc. announces the release of ... time music therapy has been joined with a biomedical system to aid in rehabilitating ...
(Date:5/18/2017)... ... 2017 , ... NDA Partners Chairman Carl Peck, MD , announced today ... and President of Pharmaceutical Development Business Unit of Cardinal Health, has joined the firm ... he was former Chief Operating Officer at Anaborex, Senior VP and General Manager of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: