Study may lead to new biomass processing

April 23, 2009 at 2:55 PM
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LOS ALAMOS, N.M., April 23 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've determined what makes the cell walls of some inedible plants so tough -- a finding that might lead to better biomass processing.

The researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory said they have identified potential weaknesses among sheets of cellulose molecules comprising lignocellulosic biomass-- a material that might be an abundant source of sugar that can be used to produce methanol or butanol. They say that insight ultimately could lead to a cost-effective and energy-efficient strategy for turning biomass into alternative fuels.

The study led by Paul Langan at Los Alamos appears in separate papers published in the current issue of the Biophysical Journal and recently in an issue of Biomacromolecules.

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