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New journal Biotechnology for Biofuels publishes important insights into the mechanism of efficient biofuel production


Pretreatment is an essential step in the enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass and the production of bioethanol, which together with biodiesel is the principal alternative to fossil fuels.

The newly launched journal, Biotechnology for Biofuels, has published a report describing how hot water pretreatment on wheat straw aids the efficient production of bioethanol, by allowing more efficient hydrolysis. In the study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that pretreatment processes help remove most of the wax and hemicellulose from wheat, but also enhancing the crop’s enzymatic digestibility – findings which could help optimise future pretreatment conditions and thus produce better quality bioethanol.

Highlighting the importance of the findings, study leader Jan Bach Kristensen said “The results of the microscopic and spectroscopic investigation of pretreated wheat straw showed that the pretreatment of biomass does not necessarily need to degrade the fibrillar structure of the cell wall in order to be effective. Hydrothermal pretreatment was responsible for significant relocation of lignin, in particular to the surface of the fibres. When optimising pretreatments, it is important to understand the effects they have on biomass structure and composition.”

Biotechnology for Biofuels is a new online, open access journal, published by BioMed Central, which will officially launch at the 30th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals in New Orleans on May 4th 2008. The journal will feature high-quality studies describing technological and operational advances in the production of biofuels from biomass.

Biotechnology for Biofuels is led by Editors-in-Chief Bärbel Hahn-Hägerdal, Michael Himmel, Chris Somerville, and Charles Wyman, and supported by an internationally renowned Editorial Board. Professor Wyman has devoted most of his career to leading the advancement of technology for biological conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other products. In the fall of 2005, he joined the University of California at Riverside as the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering where he focuses most of his current research on pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis.

Speaking of the new journal, Professor Wyman said that “it will provide a valuable forum for rapid and widespread distribution of information that supports and even accelerates the introduction and growth of a new biofuels industry that is so vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and excessive dependence on petroleum.”


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