Unlocking the potential of lignocellulosic biomass through plant science

Poppy E. Marriott, Leonardo D. Gómez, Simon J. Mcqueen-Mason*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of producing sustainable liquid biofuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass remains high on the sustainability agenda, but is challenged by the costs of producing fermentable sugars from these materials. Sugars from plant biomass can be fermented to alcohols or even alkanes, creating a liquid fuel in which carbon released on combustion is balanced by its photosynthetic capture. Large amounts of sugar are present in the woody, nonfood parts of crops and could be used for fuel production without compromising global food security. However, the sugar in woody biomass is locked up in the complex and recalcitrant lignocellulosic plant cell wall, making it difficult and expensive to extract. In this paper, we review what is known about the major polymeric components of woody plant biomass, with an emphasis on the molecular interactions that contribute to its recalcitrance to enzymatic digestion. In addition, we review the extensive research that has been carried out in order to understand and reduce lignocellulose recalcitrance and enable more cost-effective production of fuel from woody plant biomass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1366-1381
JournalThe New phytologist
Issue numberMarch
Early online date3 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Biofuel
  • Cell wall
  • Cellulose
  • Ferulic acid
  • Hemicellulose
  • Lignin
  • Saccharification
  • Xylan

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