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Power Biotech Science

Cheaper Fuel From Self-Destructing Trees 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the larch-powered dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Wood is great for building and heating homes, but it's the bane of biofuels. When converting plants to fuels, engineers must remove a key component of wood, known as lignin, to get to the sugary cellulose that's fermented into alcohols and other energy-rich compounds. That's costly because it normally requires high temperatures and caustic chemicals. Now, researchers in the United States and Canada have modified the lignin in poplar trees to self-destruct under mild processing conditions—a trick that could slash the cost of turning plant biomass into biofuels."
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Cheaper Fuel From Self-Destructing Trees

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  • bio fuel? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2014 @12:52AM (#46658103)

    Wood is biofuel. There is a device http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/10/20/0549231/carbon-negative-energy-machines-catching-on which when paired with a dense wood like Robinia pseudoacacia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinia_pseudoacacia which has as much energy as anthacite coal and when harvested dumps nitrogen into the soil so that other plants grow faster and it grows back faster than it did the first time. So why can't all our power sources be food producing, fertilzer producing, erosion stopping, medicine producing, ecology improving, and sustainable?

  • Gasification (Score:5, Interesting)

    by do_be_jack (3603697) on Friday April 04, 2014 @01:16AM (#46658183)
    combine gasification generators with a nitrogen fixing energy rich wood like Robina pseudoacacia,which grows back faster and makes surrounding plants grow better after it is cut, planted around fruit trees and other useful species and then the act of harvesting wood makes plants grow and the act of generating electricity makes fertilizer. With the right generator http://www.cnet.com/news/carbo... [cnet.com] there is only a positive environmental impact to the harvesting and generating of energy which when used in conjunction with a food/medicine forest http://www.beaconfoodforest.or... [beaconfoodforest.org] you have good hunting beautiful landscape and no reason to leave home. There are food forests around which are over 2000 years old still going and no one knows who planted them.
  • Why corn? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday April 04, 2014 @02:06AM (#46658347) Journal

    Ralph says his team is already working to insert zip-lignins into corn plants.

    I know we grow a lot of corn, but why not insert the gene into kudzu or some other fast growing weed that thrives on marginal land with low fertilizer inputs?
    It's not like we don't already have a use for every part of the corn plant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2014 @02:56AM (#46658555)

    So, once this genetic defect - I mean modification - crosses the line and goes wild (although Monsanto tells us it never happens), how fast and hot will those forests burn?

  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Friday April 04, 2014 @05:24AM (#46659093)

    Using wood to create BioFuels is extremely wasteful of both time and material.

    Use hemp instead. You'll get two huge crops per year. And it's a crop made of easy-to-process plant material. No lignin involved. Just process the green matter.

  • Re:So why use trees? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:31AM (#46659357)

    Storage is a problem with sunlight. Burnable fuels do not have that problem.

  • Save the trees? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tp1024 (2409684) on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:24AM (#46659537)

    Erm, wasn't there something the greenies used to say? Like save the trees? Protect the forests? Leave room for nature?

    Well, obviously I must have been hallucinating all the ways through the 90ies. And don't worry, I'll see a psychiatrist about this decade-long delusion at once. But let's pretend there had been an environmental movement in the second half of the last century, when people said that there is some inherent value in nature itself. Wouldn't you think that people in this movement would have been somewhat upset about the prospect of converting huge tracts of land that used be called "forests" into industrial fuel plantations? Well, I for one would imagine they'd be, but they are not.

    Hence my suspicion that I was merely hallucinating. If I don't respond, I guess I stuck in comfy happy white room.

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