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New process helps overcome obstacles to produce renewable fuels and chemicals
Date:8/25/2014

to secrete powerful enzymes or chemical oxidants to break down lignin in plant cell walls, which produces a heterogeneous mixture of aromatic molecules. Given this large pool of aromatics present in nature, some bacteria have developed "funneling" pathways to uptake the resulting aromatic molecules and use them as a carbon and energy source.

This new study shows that developing biological conversion processes for one such lignin-utilizing organism may enable new routes to overcome the heterogeneity of lignin. And, that may enable a broader slate of molecules derived from lignocellulosic biomass.

"The conceptual approach we demonstrate can be applied to many different types of biomass feedstocks and combined with many different strategies for breaking down lignin, engineering the biological pathways to produce different intermediates, and catalytically upgrading the biologically-derived product to develop a larger range of valuable molecules derived from lignin," Beckham said. "It holds promise for a wide variety of industrial applications. While this is very exciting, certainly there remains a significant amount of technology development to make this process economically viable."

A patent application has been filed on this research and NREL's Technology Transfer Office will be working with researchers to identify potential licensees of the technology.

In addition, researchers from NREL participated in a recent review on lignin valorization published in Science Magazine. This review highlighted the broad potential for manufacturing value-added products from lignin, including low-cost carbon fiber, engineering plastics and thermoplastic elastomers, polymeric foams and membranes, and a variety of fuels and chemicals all currently sourced from petroleum.


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Contact: David Glickson
david.glickson@nrel.gov
303-275-4097
DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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