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Biomass analysis tool is faster, more precise
Date:3/5/2013

ed with cell wall chemistry and provided greater chemical specificity and resolution than had been available before.

So, NREL used money from its internal general purpose equipment account to buy an auto-sampler, the final piece in the goal of combining automation, pyrolysis, spectrometry, and speed. NREL's partners in the project include Extrel CMS which worked with NREL to design and fabricate the molecular beam mass spectrometer, and Frontier Laboratories, which provided the pyrolysis instrument.

NREL scientists integrated the autosampler, pyrolyzer, and molecular beam mass spectrometer to make HTAP. Other partners using NREL's rapid analytical tool for fuel research, besides ArborGen, are the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, Greenwood Resources, the BioEnergy Science Center, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Spectrometer Reads the Chemical Fingerprints of the Samples

The spectrometer's readings are translated into graphs that show single peaks that are easily identifiable phenotypes from which the scientists can infer information about the cell walls. Know the genes associated with the traits, and you gain the ability to manipulate the cell wall to your advantage.

"HTAP provides the information that, combined with other genetic information, tells us there's a gene controlling the plant's cell wall chemistry located somewhere on this chromosome at the same location every time," Davis said. "Our partners have genetic markers for 1,000 trees and can pinpoint the gene that has an effect on lignin content, cellulose content, or some other factor affecting recalcitrance (the plant's resistance to give up its structural sugars). With that information, the partners can go back and find a tree in the natural population with similar genetic traits or use genetic transformation to introduce the desirable traits."

The data from the chemical makeup is averaged and generated in real time. "If we kn
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Contact: David Glickson
david.glickson@nrel.gov
303-275-4097
DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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