New Study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proves that engineering can make it possible for softwoods to have easier-to-process lignin which is a characteristic of hardwoods.
Lignin is made up of G and S monomers of binding molecules. While the lignin present in hardwoods contains both the monomers, the softwood lignin is made up of only G monomer. As the S monomer is responsible for easy degradation of lignin, its absence is responsible for hard to degrade lignin of Softwood.
But despite the presence of hard to process lignin, softwood is considered as better feedstock for biofuel as the sugar present within it gets converted to ethanol more easily and gives higher volume of ethanol. Using models, the new study has shown that in future engineering performed on softwoods may lead to have softwoods with the additional advantage of easier-to-process lignins overcoming a major bottleneck related to the utilization of softwood for biofuels.
In the next step the researchers will engineer the actual softwood applying the same approach.
The research is an outcome of collaborative study including researchers from New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, USA.