Plants can help lower costs of biofuel production, research reveals

Researchers have found that plants can be genetically modified to produce valuable chemical compounds, known as bio-products, to help cover the cost of converting plant waste into biofuel. Scientists at the Berkeley Lab in the US have found new evidence that this strategy is economically feasible.
Biofuels have potential as an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based fuels, but biofuels are much more expensive to manufacture. However extracting bio-products from plants could significantly lower the cost of biofuel production.
“It’s a really elegant solution, to be able to engineer a plant to directly accumulate a valuable bio-product,” said study co-lead author Corinne Scown.
The study was focused on a group of bio-products that plants can already produce, such as flavours and fragrances. The team designed and simulated the extraction process in the context of an ethanol bio-refinery, where the leftover plant material would be converted into ethanol.
The model enabled the experts to quantify how much of a particular bio-product that plants must be able to deliver for a cost effective approach to biofuel production. The results showed that the target amount was unexpectedly attainable.
“The researchers in our feedstocks division were surprised by how modest the target levels were,” said Ms Scown. “The levels we need to accumulate in plants to offset the cost of bio-product recovery and drive down the price of biofuels are well within reach.”
While the research confirms that using modified plants to reduce the cost of biofuels is feasible, the market demand may not be high enough for the bio-products that plants are currently capable of making.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

191 queries in 1.404 seconds.