Optimising energy output and biorefining

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Funding

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council: £6,415,272.00

Funder Project Reference(s)

BBS/E/W/10963A01D
Links
Effective start/end date01 Apr 201231 Mar 2017

Description

The aim of the project is to characterise Miscanthus and other energy grasses for processability, digestibility, fermentability and potential for recovery of high value co-products. An important aspect of the studies will be the harvesting and stabilisation of biomass. Stabilised biomass will be screened for saccharification potential prior to fermentation to biofuels and platform chemicals. A mapping family will be identified and used to map QTL for biorefining traits. We will investigate the practicality of harvesting Miscanthus biannually, assess the fermentability of green material, and identify co-products with commercial potential while observing the effects on yield and long-term sustainability. Work on the biotransformation of feedstocks will provide a more coherent picture of how grass composition and morphology affect digestion and fermentation. An alternative strategy to the exploitation of natural variation is to transgenically manipulate grasses to facilitate downstream processing. To do this we will exploit post harvest/ senescence promoters and cellular targeting sequences to express genes with industrial biotechnology potential. We will also develop a toolkit involving the synthesis of enzyme substrates linked with chromophores for the rapid screening of cell-wall degrading enzymes in diverse germplasm and manipulated plants. To maximise the commercial value of energy grasses, high value compounds will be identified (e.g. using LC-ESI-MS/MS and 2D NMR) with potential applications in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, agricultural, food and non-food industries.