Molecular-level studies of tension wood formation in poplars could ultimately fuel the discovery of biomass crops with thicker cell walls, less lignin and more cellulose that can be converted into ethanol. While typical poplar woody biomass is composed of about 45 percent cellulose, tension wood cell walls are composed of more than 90 percent cellulose. "If you increase the cellulose in your feedstock material, then you can potentially extract more sugars," said Udaya Kalluri of ORNL's Biosciences Division. From a functional perspective, tension wood enables trees to flex in the wind, but that secondary cell wall layer could also end up powering more flex fuel vehicles. Partners in this BioEnergy Science Center project are Georgia Tech and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; email@example.com]
BIOLOGY -- Tailoring toxicity of nanoparticles . . .
By selectively applying different coatings, scientists have discovered they can influence the toxicity of particles on mouse cell lines from the lung and immune system. These findings, published in Langmuir, build on previous work that showed surface coatings can influence toxicity to bacteria. "The coating can cause relatively higher toxicity or no toxicity to the strains of bacteria that were evaluated," said corresponding author Mitch Doktycz of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Biosciences Division. This work is significant because it may be possible to tailor nanoparticle toxicity with simple coatings, and this may prove useful for treating infectious diseases. The paper also underscores the need for an improved fundamental understanding of nanoparticle characteristics and transformations that may occur in real environments. The paper is titled "Cytotoxicity Induced by Engineering Silver Nanocrystallites is Dependent on Surface Coatings and Cell Types." [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;
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DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory