Poplar Science: Engineering Trees for Fuel


While debates rage over both ethanol and genetic engineering, the truth is that the two technologies are likely to play a growing role in our future. The two contentious fields will almost definitely intersect as well. A recent grant given jointly by the USDA and DOE is pushing that intersection closer. The two government agencies recently awarded $700,000 to a team at North Carolina State University to help them modify the genes of poplar trees, making them better candidates for cellulosic ethanol feedstock. Dr. Vincent Chiang and his group believe that poplar trees (the only tree to have its genome mapped) may be an excellent source of cellulose and hemicelluloses, which can be fermented into ethanol. Currently, however, their extraction is a challenge because of being bound up in the tree’s lignin. Dr. Chiang’s group has already achieved poplars with less lignin, and now hope to create ones with more cellulose. :: Green Car Congress