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Feedstocks With Reduced Acetylation for Higher Product Yields and Improved Properties




  • Dedicated energy crops for biofuel production
  • Livestock feed
  • Food ingredient industry
  • Pulp and paper industry


  • Increased product yields
  • Reduced inhibitors to efficient fermentation
  • Reduced need for costly enzymes
  • Improved properties of structural food ingredients


Henrik Scheller of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed a method of using plants that have reduced levels of acetylation of their cellulose. The plants are positioned to provide higher yields of sugar for fermentation and improved properties as feedstocks for biofuels, paper production, and livestock feed. When degraded, the feedstocks produce lower levels of acetylation of their cellulose, which is inhibitory to organisms used in downstream fermentation.

The most costly step in producing biofuels entails deconstructing plant biomass into simple sugars. Degradation by enzymatic action is hindered by the presence of acetyl ester substitutions on the polysaccharide backbone in the plant cell wall, which may occur in up to 25% to 50% of xylan residues in grasses; known acetyl esterases are inefficient and expensive. These JBEI plants have reduced levels of acetylation of their cellulose, so they can be more efficiently degraded into sugars using current methods of biomass deconstruction. They are anticipated to produce less acetic acid, which is inhibitory to E. coli and yeast during fermentation.

This technology has no adverse demonstrated effects on plant growth, and its benefits extend beyond biofuel production. Facilitated degradation of cell wall polysaccharides is an advantage in food and livestock feed production and in the pulp and paper industry. Furthermore, a decreased level of acetylation of pectic polysaccharides may make it possible to produce food grade pectin from plentiful sources such as the byproducts of potato starch and beet sugar production.

The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, is a scientific partnership led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and including the Sandia National Laboratories, the University of California campuses of Berkeley and Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. JBEI’s primary scientific mission is to advance the development of the next generation of biofuels.

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