Ruth continues with the series for UBC Research Week:
Carolina Chanis is a UBC Biology student. She works in Dr. Jack Saddler‘s research lab and you may recognize her name from previous BPotD contributions of bryophyte microscopy. She calls this composition “pulp art”. This geometric design contains the results of different treatments on corn stover. Corn stover is the debris left over from corn harvest. Corn leaves, stalks, husks and cobs are collected and ground for processing. The different pulp samples were treated with acid, ethanol and temperature in varying combinations and amounts. The different responses to treatment resulted in the color, texture and degree of degradation made visible in this photograph. Carolina took these photos during her co-op study program.
Carolina writes: “The Forest Products Biotechnology group, led by Dr. Jack Saddler, investigates the production of second-generation biofuels from lignocellulosic materials. We are particularly interested in the use of beetle-killed Pinus contorta (lodgepole pine) as a source for biofuels. The Dendroctonus ponderosae (mountain pine beetle) epidemic in British Columbia has killed more than half of the lodgepole pines in the province, reducing the value and quality of the wood. By using this otherwise discarded wood, we can produce clean energy and reduce the risk of wild fires caused by the dead trees that are not harvested. The group is also working on Picea (spruce), Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir), Tsuga (hemlock) and agricultural residues such as corn stover.”
“Our team uses two different methods for bioconversion: steam explosion, which uses steam at high temperature and pressure, and the ethanol Organosolv process, which uses ethanol and an acid catalyst such as sulfuric acid too ‘cook’ the pulp at high temperature and pressure. The Organosolv process is essentially used to extract sugars for processing. We also study the subsequent stages in the bioconversion process: enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation. Our scientific research is coupled to studies in economic performance in order to develop the most cost-effective strategy for a sustainable future.”