Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Drilling down to the nanometer depths of leaves for biofuels

A xylem cell with fluorescent lignocellulose bands as the major feature
A xylem cell with fluorescent lignocellulose bands as the major feature

Abstract:
By imaging the cell walls of a zinnia leaf down to the nanometer scale, energy researchers have a better idea about how to turn plants into biofuels.

Drilling down to the nanometer depths of leaves for biofuels

Livermore, CA | Posted on July 19th, 2010

In a paper appearing online in the journal Plant Physiology, a team from Lawrence Livermore led by Michael Thelen, in collaboration with researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has used four different imaging techniques to systematically drill down deep into the cells of Zinnia elegans.

Zinnia is a common garden annual plant with solitary daisy like flower heads on long stems and sandpapery, lace shaped leaves. The leaves of seedlings provide a rich source of single cells that are dark green with chloroplasts and can be cultured in liquid for several days at a time. During the culturing process, the cells change in shape to resemble the tube-like cells that carry water from roots to leaves. Known as xylem, these cells hold the bulk of cellulose and lignin in plants, which are both major targets of recent biofuel research.

Using different microscopy methods, the team was able to visualize single cells in detail, cellular substructures, fine-scale organization of the cell wall, and even chemical composition of single zinnia cells, indicating that they contain an abundance of lignocellulose.

"The basic idea is that cellulose is a polymer of sugars, which if released by enzymes, can be converted into alcohols and other chemicals used in alternative fuel production," Thelen said. "But for this to happen efficiently, we need to find ways to see how this is proceeding at several spatial scales."

To get at the sugars is no easy task. The team had to find ways to overcome the hydrophobic protection of crystalline cellulose provided by lignin in the cell wall. The two polymers, collectively called lignocellulose, are very insoluble, resistant to common chemicals and mechanical breakage, and are a superior substance for providing strength and structure to plants.

The detailed three-dimensional molecular cell wall structure of plants remains poorly understood.

"The capability to image plant cell surfaces at the nanometer scale, together with the corresponding chemical composition, could significantly enhance our understanding of cell wall molecular architecture," said Alex Malkin, a member of the LLNL team who is an expert in atomic force microscopy. "A high resolution structural model is crucial for the successful implementation of new approaches for conversion of biomass to liquid fuels."

To make fuels from plant biomass requires a thorough understanding of the organization of cell walls before determining the best methods for cell wall deconstruction into its components. Catherine Lacayo, a postdoctoral scientist working with Thelen and Malkin, has taken the first steps toward a comprehensive approach.

She came up with techniques that reveal the inner structure of cell walls in these single xylem cells, which represent about 70 percent of the cellulose in plants that can be used in fuel processing. "This approach will be useful for evaluating the responses of plant material to various chemical and enzymatic treatments, and could accelerate the current efforts in lignocellulosic biofuel production."

The research is supported by the Department of Energy Genome Sciences Program through the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and the DOE's BioEnergy Research Centers in Emeryville and Oak Ridge. It will appear in the September issue of Plant Physiology.

####

About Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Anne M. Stark
(925) 422-9799

Copyright © Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern July 21st, 2018

World's fastest man-made spinning object could help study quantum mechanics July 20th, 2018

Relax, just break it July 20th, 2018

Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers July 20th, 2018

Possible Futures

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern July 21st, 2018

World's fastest man-made spinning object could help study quantum mechanics July 20th, 2018

Relax, just break it July 20th, 2018

Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers July 20th, 2018

Discoveries

World's fastest man-made spinning object could help study quantum mechanics July 20th, 2018

Relax, just break it July 20th, 2018

Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers July 20th, 2018

The relationship between charge density waves and superconductivity? It's complicated July 19th, 2018

Announcements

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern July 21st, 2018

World's fastest man-made spinning object could help study quantum mechanics July 20th, 2018

Relax, just break it July 20th, 2018

Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers July 20th, 2018

Tools

Relax, just break it July 20th, 2018

The relationship between charge density waves and superconductivity? It's complicated July 19th, 2018

Oxford Instruments’ 22 Tesla superconducting magnet system commissioned at the UAM, making it the most intense magnetic field available outside a large international facility July 12th, 2018

Nanometrics to Announce Second Quarter Financial Results on July 31, 2018 July 12th, 2018

Energy

NIST Researchers Simulate Simple Logic for Nanofluidic Computing June 30th, 2018

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Automotive/Transportation

Leti and Oscaro Partner on Leti’s New Low-Power, Low-Cost Transceiver to Track Parcels July 12th, 2018

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Surpasses $2 Billion in Design Win Revenue on 22FDX® Technology : With 50 client designs and growing, 22FDX proves its value as a cost-effective solution for power-sensitive applications July 9th, 2018

Leti & Partners Launch Pilot Program to Assess New Perception Sensors for Autonomous Vehicles July 5th, 2018

GLOBALFOUNDRIES to Deliver Socionext’s Next Generation Graphics Controller for Advanced In-Vehicle Display Applications: 55nm LPx platform, with SST’s highly reliable embedded SuperFlash®, enables enhanced features and security protection for remote display applications June 28th, 2018

Research partnerships

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern July 21st, 2018

World's fastest man-made spinning object could help study quantum mechanics July 20th, 2018

Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers July 20th, 2018

The relationship between charge density waves and superconductivity? It's complicated July 19th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project