Posted in | News | Biofuels | Renewable Energy

Zinnia Plant Leaf is Expected to Show the Way to Understand BioFuel Process

A research paper in the online journal Plant Physiology has detailed an attempt made by a team led by Michael Thelen of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in association with the scientists from National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in picturing the cell walls of a Zinnia plant Leaf down to the level of a nanometer to comprehend how the plants evolve into biofuels.

The team has attempted four different types of imaging techniques to scientifically go deeper into the cell levels of the Zinnia elegans.

Zinnia is a normal plant grown in gardens with a single whorl type of flower head on long stalk and rough lace shaped leaves. The leaves of this plant offers a good number of single cells in dark green color along with plastids that can be developed in to liquid within a few days. Through the culturing process the cells change in to tube like cell shapes called xylem to carry water and volume of lignin and cellulose from roots to the leaves that are targeted for biofuel research.

The research team deployed various microscopic methods to view the single cells in detail, the structure of the cell, cell wall formation and the elements included in the formation of a lone zinnia cell and established that great quantity of biomass compiled of lignin, cellulose and ligno-cellulose in zinnia cells was present. During the research process the team had faced problems in subduing the hydrophobic protection offered by lignin in the cell wall that gave strength to the plant structure, as the ligno cellulose are insoluble and resistant to chemical and mechanical breakage.

According to Thelen the research was aimed at finding whether cellulose a compound of sugars can be converted into alcohols with the release of enzymes and to find out efficient ways to use it in the alternative fuel production.

Catherine Lacayo, a team member and postdoctoral scientist, found out methods that can expose the inner construction of cell walls in the single xylem cells which constitute nearly 70% of plant cellulose that can be used in the preparation of biofuel. This effort of Lacayo is expected to speed up the research in lignocellulosic biofuel production.


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