Joining Forces for Biofuels
Computational biophysicist Jeremy Smith specializes in performing science at the intersection of multiple disciplines. Smith, who directs ORNL's Center for Molecular Biophysics and holds a Governor's Chair at the University of Tennessee, is bringing together the laboratory's strengths in supercomputing and neutron science to overcome challenges in interdisciplinary areas such as bioenergy.
Collaborating with scientists from ORNL's Bioenergy Science Center, Smith focuses on a particularly troublesome molecule called lignin. Lignin is a major component of plant cell walls, where it intertwines with plant sugars called cellulose and hemicellulose. Lignin's hardiness provides benefits to plants in the wild but has been a major frustration to bioenergy researchers. During biofuel production, in which plant biomass is converted into alcohol, lignin inhibits the release of sugars necessary for fermentation.
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