Dr Victoria Maloney
In the biobased economy, there is a growing demand for chemical cellulose pulp, lignin and xylan. Wood remains the largest biomass energy source to date and contains all of these polymers within its secondary cell wall. Therefore finding the most suitable method for extracting these high-value products from this abundant resource is pivotal. In order to do this, it is necessary to separate the cell wall into its individual components while maintaining the most industrially important qualities for each. All of these components are highly intertwined in the cell wall but the mechanisms of interaction and the genes and proteins involved are not well understood. More specifically xylan, the most abundant hemicellulose, has specific decoration patterns that may be important in allowing it to interact with cellulose fibrils and with lignin, thereby making it an important cross-linking biopolymer in secondary cell walls (wood). Therefore the purpose of my research is to use novel molecular techniques to gain an understanding and then to manipulate these patterns at a molecular level in order to elucidate the steps that need to be taken to engineer woody biomass to produce the highest quality cellulose pulp possible.