Bioenergy center’s research leads to 100th patent application

The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), one of three bioenergy research centers established in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), recently celebrated the filing of its 100th patent application.

In recently developed GLBRC technology, UW-Madison’s John Ralph, Michigan State’s Curtis Wilkerson and the University of British Columbia’s Shawn Mansfield pooled their diverse expertise to engineer poplar trees whose plant walls contain a modified form of the polymer lignin to make them easier to degrade for conversion to fuel. The resulting technology, reported in Science last April, is of broad interest to the bioenergy, bioproducts and fiber industries.

GLBRC technology has also laid the foundation for several startup companies. Hyrax Energy, a private company begun by UW-Madison researcher Ronald Raines, was the first company to emerge. Its technology converts biomass into fermentable sugars usable in biochemicals, bioproducts and drop-in fuels.

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