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Chemists ID Catalytic 'Key' for Converting CO2 to Methanol

Results from experiments and computational modeling studies that definitively identify the "active site" of a catalyst commonly used for making methanol from CO2 will guide the design of improved catalysts for transforming this pollutant to useful chemicals.

Cryo-Electron Microscopy Achieves Unprecedented Resolution Using New Computational Methods

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)--which enables the visualization of viruses, proteins, and other biological structures at the molecular level--is a critical tool used to advance biochemical knowledge. Now Berkeley Lab researchers have extended cryo-EM's impact further by developing a new computational algorithm instrumental in constructing a 3-D atomic-scale model of bacteriophage P22 for the first time.

New Study Maps Space Dust in 3-D

A new Berkeley Lab-led study provides detailed 3-D views of space dust in the Milky Way, which could help us understand the properties of this dust and how it affects views of distant objects.

Single-Angle Ptychography Allows 3D Imaging of Stressed Materials

Scientists have used a new X-ray diffraction technique called Bragg single-angle ptychography to get a clear picture of how planes of atoms shift and squeeze under stress.

New Feedback System Could Allow Greater Control Over Fusion Plasma

A physicist has created a new system that will let scientists control the energy and rotation of plasma in real time in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak.

Towards Super-Efficient, Ultra-Thin Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers from Ames Laboratory used supercomputers at NERSC to evaluate a novel approach for creating more energy-efficient ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells by optimizing nanophotonic light trapping.

Study IDs Link Between Sugar Signaling and Regulation of Oil Production in Plants

UPTON, NY--Even plants have to live on an energy budget. While they're known for converting solar energy into chemical energy in the form of sugars, plants have sophisticated biochemical mechanisms for regulating how they spend that energy. Making oils costs a lot. By exploring the details of this delicate energy balance, a group of scientists from the U.

High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Two-Dimensional MXene Materials Get Their Close-Up

Researchers have long sought electrically conductive materials for economical energy-storage devices. Two-dimensional (2D) ceramics called MXenes are contenders.


Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.

ORNL, HTS International Corporation to Collaborate on Manufacturing Research

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research.

Jefferson Lab Director Honored with Energy Secretary Award

Hugh Montgomery, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), was awarded The Secretary's Distinguished Service Award by the Secretary of Energy earlier this year.

New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive

Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California's total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

Southern Research Project Advances Novel CO2 Utilization Strategy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has awarded Southern Research nearly $800,000 for a project that targets a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of producing some of the most important chemicals used in manufacturing.

Harker School Wins 2017 SLAC Regional Science Bowl Competition

After losing its first match of the day to the defending champions, The Harker School's team won 10 consecutive rounds to claim victory in the annual SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative

Alexander brings extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research to the position.

Kalinin, Paranthaman Elected Materials Research Society Fellows

Two researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sergei Kalinin and Mariappan Parans Paranthaman, have been elected fellows of the Materials Research Society.

Two PNNL Researchers Elected to Membership in the National Academy of Engineering

Two scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will become members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.


High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Modeling the "Flicker" of Gluons in Subatomic Smashups

A new model identifies a high degree of fluctuations in the glue-like particles that bind quarks within protons as essential to explaining proton structure.

Rare Nickel Atom Has "Doubly Magic" Structure

Supercomputing calculations confirm that rare nickel-78 has unusual structure, offering insights into supernovas.

Microbial Activity in the Subsurface Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Natural carbon dioxide production from deep subsurface soils contributes significantly to emissions, even in a semiarid floodplain.

Stretching a Metal Into an Insulator

Straining a thin film controllably allows tuning of the materials' magnetic, electronic, and catalytic properties, essential for new energy and electronic devices.

How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Study models soil-pore features that hold or release carbon dioxide.

ARM Data Is for the Birds

Scientists use LIDAR and radar data to study bird migration patterns, thanks to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

The Future of Coastal Flooding

Better storm surge prediction capabilities could help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

Estimating Global Energy Use for Water-Related Processes

Scientists find that water-related energy consumption is increasing across the globe, with pronounced differences across regions and sectors.


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Making Money From Lignin: Roadmap Shows How to Improve Lignocellulosic Biofuel Biorefining

Article ID: 617917

Released: 2014-05-14 13:45:00

Source Newsroom: Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Credit: Gary Meek

    Professor Arthur Ragauskas prepares samples containing cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose for analysis using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance techniques.

Brett Israel

Communications Officer II

brett.israel@comm.gatech.edu

Phone: 404-385-1933

When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money.

A new review article in the journal Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics. Using lignin in this way would create new markets for the forest products industry and make ethanol-to-fuel conversion more cost-effective.

“We’ve developed a roadmap for integrating genetic engineering with analytical chemistry tools to tailor the structure of lignin and its isolation so it can be used for materials, chemicals and fuels,” said Arthur Ragauskas, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Ragauskas is also part of the Institute for Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech.

The roadmap was published May 15 in the journal Science. Co-authors of the review included scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The growth of the cellulosic fuel industry has created a stream of lignin that the industry needs to find valuable ways to use. At the same time, federal agencies and industry are funding research to simplify the process of taking biomass to fuels.

“One of the very promising approaches to doing that is to genetically engineer plants so they have more reactive polysaccharides suitable for commercial applications, but also to change lignin’s structural features so that it’ll become more attractive for materials applications, chemicals and fuels.” Ragauskas said.

Research highlighted in the review has shown it’s theoretically possible to genetically alter lignin pathways to reduce undesirable byproducts and more efficiently capture the desired polysaccharides – which are sugars that can be converted to other products – and enhance lignin’s commercial value.

“There are sufficient publications and data points out there to say that say, ‘Yes, we can do this,’” Ragauskas said.

Through work on transgenic plants and wild plants that naturally have fewer undesirable constituents, biologists, engineers and chemists have recently improved the biorefinery field’s understanding of the chemistry and structure of lignin, which provides a better idea of the theoretical chemistry that lignin can do, Ragauskas said.

“We should be able to alter the structure of lignin and isolate it in such a manner that we can use it for green-based materials or use it in a blend for a variety of synthetic polymers,” Ragauskas said.

Doing so would create a stream of polysaccharides for use as ethanol fuels, with lignin waste that has structural features that would make it attractive for commercial applications such as polymers or carbon fibers.

The science could be applied to a variety of plants currently used for cellulosic biofuel production, such as switchgrass and poplar.

Today, lignin is mostly burned for energy to fulfill a small amount of the power requirements of the ethanol biorefineries. But the new roadmap emphasizes how, through genetic engineering tools that currently exist, lignin could become much more valuable to industry.

“Our primary mission is to reduce the cost of taking biomass to biofuels,” Ragauskas said, “But in the process we’ve learned a lot about lignin, and we might be able to do more than just reduce cost. We might be able to tailor lignin’s structure for commercial applications.”

Co-authors on the review article included scientists from the National Renewable Energy, the University of British Columbia, the University of North Texas, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of California, Riverside.

CITATION: Arthur J. Ragauskas, et al., “Lignin Valorization: Improving Lignin Processing in the Biorefinery.” (Science, May 2014). DOI TKTK

Research News

Georgia Institute of Technology

177 North Avenue

Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

@GTResearchNews

Media Relations Contacts: Brett Israel (@btiatl) (404-385-1933) (brett.israel@comm.gatech.edu) or John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu)

Writer: Brett Israel