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Genetically Engineered Trees Will Make It Easier To Produce Paper

Update Date: Apr 04, 2014 12:08 PM EDT
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Scientists have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel. 

Scientists said the breakthrough will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and ultimately causing less harm to environment.

"One of the largest impediments for the pulp and paper industry as well as the emerging biofuel industry is a polymer found in wood known as lignin," said Shawn Mansfield, a professor of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia, in a press release. 

Lignin is a substantial portion of the cell wall in most of the plants which must be removed before the production of paper and biofuels. The process of removal requires significant amount of chemicals and energy. 

Researchers genetically engineered the lignin making it easier to break down without affecting the strength of trees. 

"We're designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible," said Mansfield.

"It is truly a unique achievement to design trees for deconstruction while maintaining their growth potential and strength."

According to scientists, the genetic modification employed in the current study can also be used on other plants such as grasses to be used as a new kind of fuel that could someday replace petroleum.

"We're a petroleum reliant society," added Mansfield in the press release. "We rely on the same resource for everything from smartphones to gasoline. We need to diversify and take the pressure off of fossil fuels. Trees and plants have enormous potential to contribute carbon to our society."

The developments of the study is published in the journal Science

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