China, Singapore to jointly develop biofuel plants

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Botany and Singapore’s Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) agreed in Beijing on Tuesday to begin joint research into energy-intensive plant hybrids for biofuels.

The CAS institute signed a pact with TLL, which is affiliated with the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, to set up a new Beijing-based Laboratory for Sweet Sorghum.

Professor Zhong Kang, a deputy director of the CAS institute who will head the lab, told Xinhua that sweet sorghum would be an ideal fuel source.

Using bio-engineering technologies that help improve energy content in plants, the lab will focus on genetically modified sweet sorghum and yam, which are widely cultivated in northern China.

"It’s true that energy can be obtained from many biomass sources," Zhong said, "but sweet sorghum, according to our latest research, is among the best from which people could extract juice to make ethanol." The trend is to derive biomass energy from cellulosic sources instead of sugar sources.

Zhong said the facility would conduct interdisciplinary studies of photosynthesis, biochemistry, molecular biology and ecophysiology.

The CAS institute is China’s leading organization for plant research, while the 5-year-old TLL does cutting-edge research in molecular biology and genetics utilizing a broad range of model organisms.

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