The American state of Georgia has recruited a forestry expert to conduct research at its university. Forestry scientist Chung-Jui Tsai is an expert in biofuels. Tsai’s research, she said, will “emphasize creating high-energy yielding trees for use in biofuel, hopefully, leading the industry toward using trees as a power source instead of ethanol from food crops.”
Tsai described biofuel as “a wonderful opportunity to revitalize the forest industry.” Tsai holds five patents that involve methods for modifying lignin, the key component that acts as glue in trees but also hinders efforts to extract cellulose, which is vital to biofuel. Tsai also is an expert in using chemicals on trees to ward off bugs and grazing animals.
Michael Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), said Tsai’s “expertise in developing trees as the feedstock for biofuels has enormous potential for making Georgia a leader in this critical area.” Her work, he added, “could lead to the creation of smarter trees, which have great ecological implications because they interact with so many organisms.”
Tsai described trees as “amazing chemical factories”, commenting that they “can be grown for commercial utilization while providing ecosystem services. They take abuse, too, and some can thrive on marginal land. Improving our understanding and knowledge base of the tree’s green machinery will open up many opportunities for the forest industry.”