ORNL researchers discover way to encourage certain kinds of lignin production

March 28, 2022 |

In Tennessee, a team of researchers working within the Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has discovered a pathway to encourage a type of lignin formation in plants that could make the processing of crops grown for products such as sustainable jet fuels easier and less costly.

The researchers focused on C-lignin, a polymer in the seed coats of certain exotic plants. Lignin, the polymer that gives plants their rigidity, is a good source of the building blocks and aromatic chemical compounds needed to produce clean bio-based fuels. But lignin is also difficult to process, particularly the more common G- and S-lignins found in most plants.

C-lignin has a chemical structure that is more linear than the other lignins, making it easier to deconstruct. The scientists working as part of CBI, a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center, have now identified the genetic mechanism at play in the formation of this preferred C-lignin, as detailed in Science Advances. The scientists hope to engineer bioenergy crops to form C-lignin while constraining the growth of G/S-lignins, which could lead to more affordable, higher-yield bioprocessing.

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Category: Research

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