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Keywords:

  • poplar;
  • biofuels;
  • lignin;
  • cellulose;
  • hemicellulose

Abstract

The growing demand for transportation fuels, along with concerns about the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, has assured a viable future for the development of alternative fuels from renewable resources, such as lignocellulosic biomass. The efficient utilization of these biomass resources is critically dependant on the in-depth knowledge of their chemical constituents. This, together with the desired fuel properties, helps tailor the chemical and/or enzymatic processes involved in converting biomass to biofuels. Hybrid poplars are among the fastest growing temperate trees in the world and a very promising feedstock for biofuels and other value-added products. Sequencing of the poplar genome has paved the way for tailoring new cultivars and clones optimized for biofuels production. Our objective is to review published research on the composition of the key chemical constituents of hybrid poplar species used for biofuels. Biomass yields, elemental composition, carbohydrate and lignin content and composition are some of the characteristics reviewed, with emphasis on lignin structure. Genetic modifications used to alter lignin content and composition, with the aim of improving biofuels yields, are also examined. Copyright © 2010 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd