A common garden plant known as zinnia may yield important results for better future biofuels. Current research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is focusing on the leaves of the zinnia plant on the nanometer scale to hopefully develop better biofuels than current Biofuels. The researchers are trying to understand ways to break down lignin, the substance that cell walls are composed of. Lignin is tough to break down, so understanding the decomposition of it will help producing biofuels. The basic idea is that cellulose is composed of a polymer of sugars. If released by enzymes, this polymer can become an alchohol or other chemical, which can be converted to biofuel. Scientists are able to view this process using high-tec imaging processes, allowing them to visualize singles cells in detail along with cellular substructures, fine-scale organization of the cell wall and the chemical composition of single zinnia cells.
Studying plant cell walls for better biofuels