Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 4:00 pm — Berkner Hall Auditorium
<p>Edible biomass includes sugars from sugar cane or sugar beets, starches from corn kernels or other grains, and vegetable oils. The fibrous, woody and generally inedible portions of plants contain cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, three key cell-wall components that make up roughly 70 percent of total plant biomass.</p> <p>At present, starch can readily be degraded from corn grain into glucose sugar, which is then fermented into ethanol, and an acre of corn can yield roughly 400 gallons of ethanol. In tapping into the food supply to solve the energy crisis, however, corn and other crops have become more expensive as food.</p> <p>One solution lies in breaking down other structural tissues of plants, including the stalks and leaves of corn, grasses and trees. However, the complex carbohydrates in cellulose-containing biomass are more difficult to break down and convert to ethanol. So researchers are trying to engineer plants having optimal sugars for maximizing fuel yield. This is a challenge because only a handful of enzymes associated with the more than 1,000 genes responsible for cell-wall synthesis have had their roles in controlling plant metabolism defined.</p> <p>As Richard Ferrieri, Ph.D., a leader of a biofuel research initiative within the Medical Department, will discuss during the 453rd Brookhaven Lecture, he and his colleagues use short-lived radioisotopes, positron emission tomography and biomarkers that they have developed to perform non-invasive, real time imaging of whole plants. He will explain how the resulting metabolic flux analysis gives insight into engineering plant metabolism further.</p> <p>Richard Ferrieri received his Ph.D. degree in nuclear and radiochemistry from Texas A&M University in 1978 and immediately joined BNL's staff. Now a Chemist, he has over the past 30 years studied a
Hosted by: Stephen Musolino, Ph.D.
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