Researchers – at University of British Columbia, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University – have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel.
A project that could reduce the use of chemicals and energy and create fewer environmental pollutants in tree-processing.
The study reports the successful engineering of poplar trees to produce lignin, a polymer found in wood, that degrades more easily. Lignin provides strength to wood but also impedes efficient degradation. Currently the lignin must be removed, a process that requires significant chemicals and energy and causes undesirable waste. Scientists identified an enzyme in other plants that contain more digestible lignin monomers, then expressed it in poplar. The resulting trees showed no difference in growth and strength, but their lignin showed improved digestibility.
“We’re designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible”, explains Shawn Mansfield, professor of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia.
Read more on: UBC News