Sunday, June 03, 2007

Science Blog -- New aspen could revolutionize pulp and paper industry

Science Blog -- New aspen could revolutionize pulp and paper industry: "From: Michigan Technological University | New aspen could revolutionize pulp and paper industry.

HOUGHTON, MI-- Researchers at Michigan Tech have genetically engineered a new breed of 2XL-aspen that could revolutionize pulp and paper production. Their work is featured in the cover story of the August 1999 edition of Nature Biotechnology.

The research team, led by Professor Vincent Chiang [pronounced 'Chang'], has introduced a gene into Populus tremuloides, commonly known as quaking aspen, that cuts the amount of lignin produced by the tree nearly in half.

Lignin, a component of all wood, must be chemically separated from cellulose to make the pulp used in paper production. The chemical, energy, and environmental costs of removing lignin have traditionally been enormous.

The transgenic aspen saplings have other advantages to industry that came as a complete surprise to the researchers: They produce up to 15 percent more cellulose. And they are remarkably fast-growing, even for a fast-growing tree like aspen.

Cellulose is the main component of pulp, and in regular aspen, as well as other tree species, the lignin:cellulose ratio is about 1:2. In the genetically engineered aspen, the ratio is roughly 1:4.

This could translate into huge gains for industry."
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