Bioenergy Highlights

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UGA researchers create fast-growing trees that are easier to turn into fuel

Researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered that manipulation of a specific gene in a hardwood tree species not only makes it easier to break down the wood into fuel, but also significantly increases tree growth.

“This research gives us important clues about the genes that control plant structures and how we can manipulate them to our advantage,” said study co-author Debra Mohnen, BSRI Member and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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Contact: Mohnen, Debra

Hands-on science: Second annual Bioenergy Day @ UGA brings more than 400 students, teachers to campus

The enthusiasm of more than 400 seventh-graders and their teachers bounced off the glass-windowed walls of the State Botanical ­Garden’s tropical conservatory Nov. 12 at the second annual Bioenergy Day @ UGA. It confirmed what its planners already knew: Hands-on science at UGA is a big hit, not only with students and their teachers, but also with UGA faculty and graduate students who participated.

“The kids are so excited,” said Carolyn Andrews, a seventh-grade science teacher at Coile Middle School. “Even though they are learning, they think it’s just fun.”

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Contact: Adolphson, Ryan

Going Green: Georgia’s energy production landscape gradually changing

Although the energy landscape, in terms of electric power production, will likely not change significantly in the next 10 years in Georgia, The University of Georgia is making efforts to become more sustainable throughout campus. Recently that commitment has expanded to include plans to switch to a more energy-efficient electrode boiler in place of the long-contested coal boiler, providing heat and steam to the UGA Athens campus.

Contact: Adolphson, Ryan

UGA discovery opens doors to building better plants

The survival of the vast majority of plants, including those that people rely on for food, depends on their ability to build strong but flexible cell walls. A key component of these walls is a polysaccharide called xylan. Researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered two proteins that play a critical role in the formation of this fundamental component of plant life, opening the doors for a new toolkit that may one day help scientists engineer improved plants for biofuels, construction materials, medicine and food production.

Contact: York, William

Canola genome sequence reveals evolutionary ‘love triangle’

An international team of scientists including researchers from the University of Georgia recently published the genome of Brassica napus-commonly known as canola-in the journal Science. Their discovery paves the way for improved versions of the plant, which is used widely in farming and industry.

Contact: Paterson, ANDREW

BSRI 2014 Annual Retreat a Great Success

The Bioenergy Systems Research Institute Annual Retreat was successfully held on May 2, 2014, at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center in Athens, GA. The retreat was considered the pre-eminent gathering of UGA bioenergy researchers and a medium to foster collaborations both within UGA and with bioenergy partners in industry, government, and other academic institutions. This year’s theme was The Future of Bioenergy.

Contact: Cheng, Youyou

Pine Tree Genome is Largest Genome Ever Sequenced

BSRI member, UGA scientist Jeff Dean, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, was among the authors of a paper about the sequencing of the loblolly pine genome  —  the largest of any genome sequence completed to date.

Contact: Dean, Jeff

Inaugural UGA-GA Tech Biofuels Summit held

The first UGA-GA Tech Biofuels Summit was successfully held at the UGA Gwinnett Campus on December 17, 2013. The event was co-hosted by the UGA Bioenergy Systems Research Institute and the GA Tech Strategic Energy Institute. The goal was to familiarize the GA Tech Strategic Energy Institute and UGA BSRI members with the respective research programs and to set the foundation for cross-institutional collaborative research proposals for submission to funding agencies.

Contact: Mohnen, Debra

Pushing cars with light: Clarke students learn about energy

Nearly 200 seventh-graders learned about energy Tuesday at the University of Georgia’s first Bioenergy Day. UGA’s Bioenergy Systems Research Institute sponsored the event, with a lot of help from the federally funded BioEnergy Science Center and the Creative Discovery Museum of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Contact: Cheng, Youyou

Hilsman Middle School students to attend first Bioenergy Day @ UGA

The University of Georgia Bioenergy Systems Research Institute is sponsoring the first Bioenergy Day @ UGA on Oct. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the State Botanical Garden. The event is free and open to the public. UGA faculty and students will be on hand to guide more than 200 seventh-grade students from Hilsman Middle School and other visitors through the hands-on displays about producing renewable energy from biological sources. Interactive exhibits were developed by staff from the BioEnergy Science Center in collaboration with the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems.

Contact: Cheng, Youyou

BSRI Sponsors IUFRO Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference

BSRI is the proud sponsor of the International Union of Forest Research Organization (IUFRO) Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference, held in Asheville (NC, USA) from May 26 to June 1, 2013. The Conference is the premier international venue for presenting and discussing new developments and ideas for current and future research in tree genetics, genomics and biotechnology.

Contact: Dean, Jeffrey

SEC schools dive into academics with renewable energy conference

The Southeastern Conference is best known for its high-powered football teams, but now the athletic conference is spending some of its money on academics. About 400 researchers, students and administrators have gathered at Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency to present academic papers and talk about renewable energy at the first “SEC Symposium.”

Contact: Scott, Robert

UGA will lead inaugural SEC Symposium on renewable energy

The inaugural SEC Symposium, to be led by UGA, will be held Feb. 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. The theme of the symposium is “Impact of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future.” Participation is open to UGA faculty, staff and students.

Contact: Scott, Robert

Discovery of plant gene lays groundwork for improved biofuel processing

University of Georgia researchers have taken an important step toward the goal of figuring out how to break down plants so that they easily release the simple sugars that can be processed into biofuels. They have identified a previously uncharacterized gene that plays a major role in cell wall development of Arabidopsis plants, a discovery that promises to help turn plants into biofuel more efficiently.

Contact: York, William

BSRI Welcomes New Leadership

BSRI welcomes Dr. Alan Darvill as its new director.  Dr. Darvill is a Regents Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Plant Biology, Director of the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, and the UGA lead for the DOE BioEnergy Science Center. Dr. Darvill will work with Dr. Robert Scott, who becomes the Executive Director and assumes a more operational role, and Associate Director Ryan Adolphson to grow the institute.

Contact: Cheng, Youyou

A growing effort: UGA professors receive $2 million to speed biofuel development

In the ongoing search for cleaner, renewable energy sources, biofuels derived from trees, shrubs and grasses have emerged as a strong candidate. But creating the next generation’s energy source is not as simple as growing a few crops; extensive research is required to ensure that these plants produce enough biomass and fuel per acre to make biomass farming economically viable.

Contact: Tsai, Chung-jui

BSRI welcomes new Associate Director

BSRI is pleased to announce the appointment of Ryan Adolphson as its Associate Director, effective 1 March 2012. BSRI will take advantage of Ryan’s expertise and skills in outreach, government, and corporate relations, as well as his broad knowledge of bioenergy field.

Contact: Cheng, Youyou

UGA to get $1.2M for algae research, biofuel study

University of Georgia researchers are partnering with the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, on research to determine effective methods of turning algae biomass into biofuels. In addition to engineering research on the conversion technology, the team will also investigate the economic viability of this renewable energy strategy.

Contact: Das, Keshav

Miscanthus: A Better Southeast Biofuel Crop

miscanthus and dragonfly

A new partnership between UGA and Mendel Biotechnology focuses on miscanthus, a high-yielding perennial grass that can reach heights of more than 12 feet. Researchers are evaluating miscanthus for heat and electrical power generation and production of liquid transportation fuel and bioproducts.

Contact: Paterson, ANDREW

UGA discovery changes how scientists think about plant cell wall formation

University of Georgia researchers have discovered that two proteins come together in an unexpected way to make a carbohydrate, a chain of sugar molecules, in plant cell walls. This fundamental discovery changes the way scientists think about how plant cell walls are made and opens a new door to converting plants to biofuels and other carbon-based products.

Contact: Mohnen, Debra

Extremophiles: Key to Bioenergy?

The Bioenergy Systems Research Institute hosted a symposium on 19-20 September 2011 titled “Extremophiles: Key to Bioenergy?” to explore the use of microorganisms that grow in extreme environments (heat, cold, salinity, etc.) and their enzymes for conversion of biomass.

Contact: Maier, Robert

High-Temperature Gasification of Biomass Improves Productivity and Efficiency

UGA engineers are finding ways to optimize efficiency and productivity of low-moisture biomass, which is heated at high temperatures in the absence of air to produces gas, fuel oil and biochar, a dense charcoal-like substance that sequesters atmospheric carbon in the soil and adds nutrients.