Wood from a common tree may one day play a major role in filling American gas tanks, according to scientists whose research on the fast-growing poplar tree was featured in a recent edition of Science.
The article, coauthored in part by three faculty members in Michigan Tech's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, highlights the analysis of the first complete DNA sequence of a tree, the black cottonwood, or Populus trichocarpa. It lays groundwork for the potential development of trees that could serve as the ideal feedstock for a new generation of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol.
The research is the result of a four-year effort, led by the US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, uniting the efforts of thirty-four institutions from around the world, including Michigan Tech.
The effort has been a mountaintop experience for the Tech team. "We have a long track record in Populus molecular genetics, and we've made a number of groundbreaking discoveries," said Professor Chung-Jui Tsai, director of the Biotechnology Research Center. "But this is a real milestone for the entire forest research community." She is working with Assistant Professor Victor Busov and Associate Professor Chandrashekhar Joshi in sequencing the poplar genome.