Challenges of the utilization of wood polymers: how can they be overcome?
Diminishing fossil fuel resources as well as growing environmental and energy security concerns, in parallel with growing demands on raw materials and energy, have intensified global efforts to utilize wood biopolymers as a renewable resource to produce biofuels and biomaterials. Wood is one of the most abundant biopolymer composites on earth that can be converted into biofuels as well as used as a platform to produce bio-based materials. The major biopolymers in wood are cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin which account for >90% of dry weight. These polymers are generally associated with each other in wood cell walls resulting in an intricate and dynamic cell wall structure. This mini-review provides an overview of major wood biopolymers, their structure, and recent developments in their utilization to develop biofuels. Advances in genetic modifications to overcome the recalcitrance of woody biomass for biofuels are discussed and point to a promising future.