‘Spinning straw into gold’ – Cafe Science Dundee on Monday…

Cafe ScienceA University of Dundee scientist will explore how biofuels can help to reduce greenhouse gasses whilst also benefitting food production at the next Cafe Science event in the city.

Claire Halpin, Professor of Plant Biology and Biotechnology and Deputy Head of the Division of Plant Sciences at the University, will deliver a talk entitled ‘Spinning Straw into Gold’ at Avery & Co, South Tay Street, this Monday (24th February).

Her research focuses on the biosynthesis of lignin, an essential component of many plant cell walls where it waterproofs and rigidifies the structure. The research may also suggest ways of allowing wood, straw and other non-food plant materials to be used to make biofuels and other industrial products.

Professor Halpin was recently appointed one of 21 new Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holders. The prestigious award provides five-year’s support for outstanding scientists to help them continue their ground-breaking work.

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the scheme helps universities to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

‘It would be wonderful if our cars and airplanes ran on a fuel that reduced CO2 emissions while promoting food production,’ said Professor Halpin. ‘Biofuels made from cereal straw could do just that.

‘I am trying to understand more about the genetics and genes involved in making lignin in plants. I am interested in this process because it is fascinating, but it also suggests ways of improving crop waste materials for industrial processes to make fuels and other useful chemicals.

‘My team works as part of the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre to make the production pipeline for these ‘second-generation’ biofuels more efficient and economically viable. Our particular focus is improving the quality of straw for various valuable applications.’

Cafe Science was launched in January 2008, and has attracted 5000 visitors since then. The monthly events are informal discussions led by leading local researchers that allow members of the public the opportunity to learn more about the ground-breaking science at the Universities of Dundee, St Andrews and Abertay, the James Hutton Institute, and Dundee Science Centre.

‘Spinning Straw into Gold’ takes place at Avery & Co from 7pm on Monday, 24th February. The event is free and open to all. There is no need to book in advance but an early arrival is recommended.

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