Biorenewables and Biofuels
CNAP has a wide ranging research portfolio and scientific expertise directly relevant to the improvement of existing crops and development of new crops for biorenewable and biofuel production. The aim in all these projects is to develop sustainable plant feedstocks without impacting negatively on food production and without harming the environment.
The major focus for CNAP in this area is renewable plant oils and related specialty chemicals for a range of industrial applications. Plant oils offer renewable sources of a rich diversity of high value fatty acids for the speciality chemical industry as well as bulk oils for bio-fuels. Many renewable oils already find significant applications in a range of non-food products. Vegetable oils have, in the main, been developed for food rather than industrial applications, however. Yield of specific types of fatty acid remains a major barrier to their use in many industries. Fulfilment of their potential in industry will require development of germplasm and extraction / processing technology.
Plant oils are already important ingredients in the chemicals industry: In 2006/7 14% of the total world production of renewable oils and fats was used in chemicals or around 21 million tons per annum. Applications include lubricants, soaps, detergents, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, leather, paints & coatings, printing inks, rubber, plastics.
Current renewable oils projects in CNAP fall into three categories:
CNAP projects in this area include:
CNAP scientists led by Ian Graham have found that a regulator gene called SPATULA can control the expression of five other genes known to affect when a seed germinates. A report on the work has just been published in the PNAS journal early online edition.
Researchers in CNAP together with colleagues at the University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the USA have determined the structure and function of a key enzyme used by gribble to digest wood. An article by the team has just been published in the journal PNAS.
New Scientist journal article features work by Rob Edwards and his team to address the problems posed by the presence of herbicide resistant weeds such as black-grass and annual ryegrass in cereal crops. An in-depth report by the team has just been published in the journal PNAS.
CNAP, Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, UK