Makin' ethanol from the old poplar tree

Technically, as many of our readers know, you can make ethanol out of any plant material. But some plants (and part of plants) are easier to convert to the biofuel than others. Researchers at Purdue University think that the fast-growing poplar tree (it's harvestable in seven years, they say) could easily make good ethanol.
The research team got a $1.4 million grant from the Department of Energy to study using genetic tools to design poplars that "can readily and inexpensively yield the substances needed to produce ethanol", according to Renewable Energy Access. Poplar trees grow across the North American continent. The researchers will try to modify a compound in cell walls called lignin that contributes to plants' structural strength and hinders extraction of cellulose. Some benefits to using the trees in making ethanol are that, "You're not applying pesticides every year; you're not trampling all over the site every year and compacting the soil. You're allowing nutrients to recycle every year when the leaves fall and degrade," said Purdue science faculty member Richard Meilan.

[Source: Purdue University]

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