The programme of work aims to:

  • Improve the feedstock quality of lignocellulose in biofuels crops in order to allow truly cost-effective ethanol production. This will be achieved by using modern crop breeding approaches, in combination with cutting edge plant cell wall research, to introduce improved digestibility traits to elite varieties, thus reducing the high costs associated with biomass conversion (WP 1). To enable this we will incorporate dedicated gene identification programs that will discover genes for; better quality polysaccharide content, lignin that is easier to break down, and improved digestibility with commercial cellulases (WPs 2-4).
  • Add value to the overall process of conversion in biomass biorefining by upgrading residues and by-products and producing other value streams from the feedstock in addition to bioethanol. We will do this by developing technologies for the extraction of valuable materials such as waxes, and oligosaccharides, as well as carrying out novel underpinning science to allow valuable materials to be generated from the breakdown products of lignin. These processes will be developed at laboratory scale before being tested in pilot processing plants (WPs 5 and 6).
  • Improve the conversion process by which we produce sugars for fermentation. We will achieve this by integrating the improved feedstock emerging from WPs 1-4, but immediately by using unique combinations of pretreatments with new enzymes for biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic material being produced in leading science programs in Europe and Brazil.
  • Develop integrated processes that capture maximum value from lignocellulosic biomass, by integrating a range of product streams in addition to bioethanol. We will achieve this by bringing improved feedstock, added value product extractions, and improved saccharification and fermentation combinations from WPs 1-5, together in pilot biorefineries in Europe and Brazil. This includes in-silico optimisation of energy balances, designing of the plant, cost evaluation, exploring efficient co-generation and reduced energy use for steam and cooling operations, as well as developing new thermo-chemical pretreatments.
  • Ensure that the new processes developed fulfil sustainability requirements by reducing GHG emissions, cutting other forms of air pollution, have minimal impacts on local environments and biodiversity, build sustainable rural industries, and do not impact on food production and prices. These aims will be achieved by developing and applying quantitative LCA models and qualitative approaches for other sustainability criteria suited to biorefineries and able to assess the full spectrum of relevant impacts (WP 8), using data generated in the preceding WPs and available from ongoing work in partner organisations, and public sources.


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