Humanity faces a dilemma: how to escape our dependency on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without further exacerbating the environmental impacts of agriculture. This issue faces us all, not only because GHG emissions that are produced locally have global impacts, but also because we now operate in a globalised economy, where commodities such as biofuels are traded on the world stage. Policy-imposed quantifiable sustainability requirements applied to biofuels will help to ensure that they are fit for purpose in environmental terms. However, such measures alone are useless without the appropriate technological developments required to enable sustainable biofuels to be produced in an economically competitive manner. Brazil and Europe face the same challenges in producing sustainable and cost-effective second generation biofuels from lignocellulose.

The environmental sustainability of lignocellulosic biomass as feedstock for bioethanol production is attractive. Lignocellulosic residues from tropical Brazilian crops such as sugarcane and temperate EU crops such as maize, as well as dedicated biomass crops such as miscanthus, are all potential bioethanol feedstocks. Processing the biomass from these three crops raises common technical challenges because they are closely related plants, and there is potential for breakthroughs in one species to be rapidly exploited in the others. The aim of the work is to combine European and Brazilian research strengths to open the way for cost-competitive lignocellulosic bioethanol production, whilst ensuring that this also brings the anticipated environmental benefits. This project will integrate Brazilian expertise in sugar cane breeding and bioethanol process engineering with EU expertise in genomics, plant science and green chemistry.


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