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Biologists Say Research Key to Future Improvements in Ethanol Production

November 03, 2006

BOSTON --- During a recent conference in Boston, plant biologists underscored the need for further research into the process of turning cellulosic material into ethanol. "The major purpose of this year's symposium was to create awareness of the considerable potential of crops and croplands for bioenergy, beyond just corn ethanol," said Richard A. Dixon, director of the Oklahoma-based Noble Foundation's plant biology division. Dixon was among the speakers at the American Society of Plant Biologists annual meeting. "We wanted to examine the role that biotechnology has to play in the accelerated development of new crops and trees for this purpose." Dixon's presentation addressed the use of biotechnology to enhance cellulosic feedstocks for biofuels and bioenergy production. His talk outlined the critical chemical factors that limit ethanol production from plant feedstocks. Dixon particularly focused on reducing lignin in feedstock plants to improve the conversion of such plants into ethanol. If researchers can engineer plants to have a slightly smaller amount of lignin, the cellulosic material can more easily be transformed into ethanol, Dixon said.
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