Biofuel from plants

November 19, 2013

Filed under: — admin @ 1:46 pm

Staff and students at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls are currently exploring the viability of biofuel production from desert plants and industrial crop waste.

Plant cell walls are full of sugars that can be fermented into ethanol. However, most of the sugars are locked into long polysaccharides that must first be degraded to release the fermentable sugars. The first step in optimising the breakdown process is understanding the composition and structure of the target plant cell wall. It is then necessary to release sugars with minimal input of resources and time, and finally to ferment the sugars with yeasts or other organisms specific to each biomass.

Trying to circumvent the ‘food vs fuel’ debate, the ARC Centre is studying several organisms that may grow in Australia’s marginal areas, such as algae, succulents and naturally hardy plants that grow with minimal input. Research is also exploring plant cell wall material in industrial crop residues, such as grape marc leftover from the winemaking process.