Biomass to fuels via microbial transformations

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The conversion of biomass to fuels is advancing on two fronts: first, to enhance the usability of biomass and second, to generate the best fuel molecule(s). Lignin generally presents a barrier to biomass utilization; this problem may be circumvented by the genetic alteration of lignin-producing plants. Plant cellulosic material will need to be utilized more efficiently, requiring a greater knowledge of the multiprotein complex, the cellulosome. Many biofuel types are being considered: alcohols, esters, ethers, and hydrocarbons. Intrinsic alcohol toxicity to cells may impose limitations on ethanol and n-butanol production. Biodiesel, or fatty acid esters, can now be synthesized via recombinant Escherichia coli and may offer an improvement over alcohol fermentations. Biopetroleum (hydrocarbons) is being considered as an alternative biofuel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-193
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent opinion in chemical biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I acknowledge the financial support of the Institute for Renewable Energy and Environment (IREE) grants SG-B6-2005 and LG-B13-2005. The support of a Discovery Grant from the Institute on the Environment of the University of Minnesota is gratefully acknowledged. I am grateful to Carol Gross and Naomi Kreamer for their assistance with the graphics.


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