The cycle of light: Analyzing how cellular proteins in leaves change through day, night

Because next-generation biofuels will depend on the growth and hardiness of woody feedstocks, scientists have sought to better understand how leaf cells quickly respond to environmental cues such as light, temperature and water. These rapid responses take the form of “post-translational modifications” that occur when a plant cell chemically modifies a protein to alter its function within seconds.

Scientists at the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, or CBI, have studied this phenomenon in leaves from poplar trees during normal daily cycles of daylight and darkness. Until now, the effect of these modifications at the cellular protein level was not well understood, partly because of the technical limitations of the analytical tools available.

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Company Innovates Microplastics That are Biodegradable or Don’t Break Apart At All

A UK-French startup just announced a $17 million funding round to make a variety of products that will allow large producers to cut out their share of microplastic pollution.

With biodegradable microplastic capsules for products like laundry detergent and agriculture chemicals, and special lubricants that prevent plastics from breaking down into microplastics, the firm could save companies and consumers tens of millions in work-around costs and higher prices in the face of an upcoming European Union ban on microplastics in 2022.

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Amazon Joins NREL-Led BOTTLE Consortium To Help Change the Way We Recycle

An estimated 5.7 billion metric tons of discarded plastic has never been recycled—more weight than food produced every year globally. Though a fraction of that plastic waste has been landfilled, much has escaped waste management, becoming a pollutant that can persist for centuries in forests, lakes, and oceans.

That hard reality is prompting the global community to rethink how plastic is created, managed, and recycled. A circular plastics economy—facilitated in part by chemical technologies designed to break apart and upcycle all kinds of plastics—could help lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and save energy relative to virgin plastics manufacturing. That way, the world might reap the substantial benefits that plastics offer, while reducing environmental costs.

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News Release: NREL Calculates Lost Value of Landfilled Plastic in U.S.

With mountains of plastic waste piling up in landfills and scientists estimating that there will be more plastics by weight than fish in the ocean by 2050, the growing environmental challenge presented to the world by plastics is well understood. What is less well understood by the scientific community is the lost energy opportunity. In short, plastic waste is also energy wasted.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) calculated the energy value of landfilled plastic waste in 2019 was enough to supply 5% of the power used by the country’s transportation sector, or 5.5% by the industrial sector.

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Advanced biofuels show promise for replacing some fossil fuels

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Plant-based biofuels can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and growing these crops in certain landscapes offers net climate benefits compared to other land use options, according to a team of international scientists.

“For the last decade, there have been a lot of questions about whether there’s an important role for bioenergy in a sustainable energy future,” said Tom Richard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. “We’ve documented that if it’s done right, there is a clear role for bioenergy, and we’ve pointed toward the places and approaches necessary for those systems to have a positive benefit.”

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Researchers identify key trigger in creation of a valuable biofuel byproduct

Scientists working with the Center for Bioenergy Innovation are developing a deeper understanding of natural processes that could make biofuel byproducts more useful. Turning biomass into marketable products will make producing cellulosic biofuel more efficient and cost-competitive.

One current biofuel byproduct is lignin, a major component in the structure of plant cells. Catechyl lignin, or C-lignin, is less common because it is synthesized only in the seed coats of some plants. But the properties of C-lignin make it a natural precursor for manufacturing carbon fiber and high-value chemicals and thus a promising choice for reuse from biorefineries.

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Study makes plant sugars more accessible for biofuel production

Researchers collaborating through the Center for Bioenergy Innovation recently developed a way to make the sugars in plant cells more accessible for producing second-generation biofuels. The results are published in Carbohydrate Polymers.

The outer walls of plant cells are constructed from polysaccharides, molecules made of bonded sugars. These molecules determine the physical properties of plants and affect their growth. A metabolic reaction called acetylation modifies the sugar chains to support life processes like cell wall strengthening.

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Phillips 66 to introduce Jet Renewable Diesel ‘this summer’

Phillips 66 has announced its Jet Renewable Diesel will go on sale at two Jet forecourts this summer, following positive customer feedback after it was launched as a wholesale offering in February 2022.

The renewable diesel is a paraffinic fuel that is chemically similar to conventional fossil-fuel-based diesel but derived from biomass sources such as used cooking oil, fats, greases and vegetable oils. This produces a fuel that is significantly lower in carbon intensity than fossil fuel and it qualifies as a renewable transport fuel under UK law.

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