Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First-of-a-kind tension wood study broadens biofuels research

Date:
October 25, 2011
Source:
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Summary:
Taking a cue from Mother Nature, researchers have undertaken a first-of-its-kind study of a naturally occurring phenomenon in trees to spur the development of more efficient bioenergy crops. Tension wood, which forms naturally in hardwood trees in response to bending stress, is known to possess unique features that render it desirable as a bioenergy feedstock. Although individual elements of tension wood have been studied previously, the team is the first to use a comprehensive suite of techniques to systematically characterize tension wood and link the wood's properties to sugar release. Plant sugars, known as cellulose, are fermented into alcohol for use as biofuel.

Poplar stems (left) respond to bending stress by producing tension wood, which has characteristics desirable in a bioenergy feedstock. Electron micrographs from a comprehensive BESC study reveal how tension wood (bottom right) develops a secondary cell wall layer, in contrast to normal wood (top right).
Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Taking a cue from Mother Nature, researchers at the Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center have undertaken a first-of-its-kind study of a naturally occurring phenomenon in trees to spur the development of more efficient bioenergy crops.

Tension wood, which forms naturally in hardwood trees in response to bending stress, is known to possess unique features that render it desirable as a bioenergy feedstock. Although individual elements of tension wood have been studied previously, the BESC team is the first to use a comprehensive suite of techniques to systematically characterize tension wood and link the wood's properties to sugar release. Plant sugars, known as cellulose, are fermented into alcohol for use as biofuel.

"There has been no integrated study of tension stress response that relates the molecular and biochemical properties of the wood to the amount of sugar that is released," said Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Udaya Kalluri, a co-author on the study.

The work, published in Energy & Environmental Science, describes tension wood properties including an increased number of woody cells, thicker cell walls, more crystalline forms of cellulose and lower lignin levels, all of which are desired in an biofuel crop.

"Tension wood in poplar trees has a special type of cell wall that is of interest because it is composed of more than 90 percent cellulose, whereas wood is normally composed of 40 to 55 percent cellulose," Kalluri said. "If you increase the cellulose in your feedstock material, then you can potentially extract more sugars as the quality of the wood has changed. Our study confirms this phenomenon."

The study's cohesive approach also provides a new perspective on the natural plant barriers that prevent the release of sugars necessary for biofuel production, a trait scientists term as recalcitrance.

"Recalcitrance of plants is ultimately a reflection of a series of integrated plant cell walls, components, structures and how they are put together," said co-author Arthur Ragauskas of Georgia Institute of Technology. "This paper illustrates that you need to use an holistic, integrated approach to study the totality of recalcitrance."

Using the current study as a model, the researchers are extending their investigation of tension wood down to the molecular level and hope to eventually unearth the genetic basis behind its desirable physical features. Although tension wood itself is not considered to be a viable feedstock option, insight gleaned from studying its unique physical and molecular characteristics could be used to design and select more suitably tailored bioenergy crops.

"This study exemplifies how the integrated model of BESC can bring together such unique research expertise," said BESC director Paul Gilna. "The experimental design in itself is reflective of the multidisciplinary nature of a DOE Bioenergy Research Center."

The research team also includes Georgia Institute of Technology's Marcus Foston, Chris Hubbell, Reichel Sameul, Seokwon Jung and Hu Fan; National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Robert Sykes, Shi-You Ding, Yining Zeng, Erica Gjersing and Mark Davis, and ORNL's Sara Jawdy and Gerald Tuskan.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marcus Foston, Christopher A. Hubbell, Reichel Samuel, Seokwon Jung, Hu Fan, Shi-You Ding, Yining Zeng, Sara Jawdy, Mark Davis, Robert Sykes, Erica Gjersing, Gerald A. Tuskan, Udaya Kalluri, Arthur J. Ragauskas. Chemical, ultrastructural and supramolecular analysis of tension wood in Populus tremula x alba as a model substrate for reduced recalcitrance. Energy & Environmental Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1039/C1EE02073K

Cite This Page:

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "First-of-a-kind tension wood study broadens biofuels research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025163121.htm>.
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (2011, October 25). First-of-a-kind tension wood study broadens biofuels research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025163121.htm
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "First-of-a-kind tension wood study broadens biofuels research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025163121.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins