Molecular Basis of the Interactions and Recalcitrance of Lignocellulosic Biomass

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Lignocellulosic biomass represents the main renewable resource from the biosphere for the production of biofuels, platform chemicals and bio-based materials. Lignocellulose consists of a complex polymeric network of cellulose microfibrils embedded in a matrix of hemicelluloses, pectins, and lignins with exquisite organization from the nano- to the microscale. However, the heterogeneity of the lignocellulose polymeric components, their strong supramolecular interactions and architecture are responsible for their recalcitrance against biotechnological exploitation. The overarching aim of this research program is to decipher the molecular origin of lignocellulose biomass recalcitrance towards hydrothermal fractionation and enzymatic saccharification. For this, we will combine plant biology tools (plant cell suspension cultures with controlled lignocellulosic formation) with advanced metabolomic analyses (glycomics and lignomics) and solid-state biophysical methods (spectroscopic and visualization) to monitor the molecular structure of the glycan and lignin components and their spatial organization during lignification. The structural information on the supramolecular architecture of lignocellulosic biomass will be correlated with its recalcitrance against hydrothermal fractionation and enzymatic deconstruction. This project will contribute to an improved utilization of biomass resources through the design of energy and material efficient biorefinery processes.

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