Energy Cane:
A Cane by Any Other Name Isn’t, Actually, As Sweet

What is it?
The same species as sugarcane, but bred to produce large amounts of fiber, rather than sugar. The potential advantages are promising: more energy per acre than sugarcane, and fiber that can be stored in the field and at the factory longer than sugar.   

Where does it grow?
Where other crops might struggle. The steamy and sandy soils of the southern United States aren’t particularly productive, and energy cane might be an excellent crop on land that is currently abandoned or minimally used for pasture.

Why does it matter?
Growing the best biofuel feedstock—with minimal inputs like irrigated water or additional fertilizer—for a given site will ensure both economic and environmental viability.

Who is working on it?
University and government research centers focusing on biofuel crops for the southern United States, and BP Biofuels North America at its operations in Jennings, LA, and Highlands, FL.

 

Conspicuous Consumption:
New Yeast Strain a Breakthrough in Biofuel Production

What is it?
A new strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, yeast that can simultaneously ferment two kinds of sugars (glucose and xylose) to produce biofuels.

How does it work?
The biofuel industry uses yeast to convert plant sugars to bioethanol. The traditional strain of S. cerevisiae is very efficient at utilizing glucose, but not xylose, the second most abundant sugar forming the lignocellulose that makes up plant stems and leaves.

Why does it matter?
Because time is money. The newly engineered yeast strain is at least 20 percent more efficient than other strains at converting xylose to ethanol, removing a key bottleneck in ethanol production.

Who is working on it?
Energy Biosciences Institute research teams led by Yong-Su Jin at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;  Jamie Cate and Louise Glass at the University of California, Berkeley; and BP scientist Xiaomin Yang.

 

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