Case Studies

We work with a number of different partners from SMEs and multinational companies mainly from the agro-food & biofuel sectors to academics & research organisations across Europe and beyond.  Recent on-going collaboration has seen visiting scientists from EMBRAPA (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) and Vietnam working at IFR.

We are happy to work on a confidential basis or as part of a collaborative research effort supported by, for instance, EU or national government funding.  Please feel free to contact us for an informal discussion and advice.

The production of bioethanol from aquatic plants

duckweedDuckweed – one of the world’s most abundant plants – is being studied as a potential feedstock for biofuel production due to its low lignin content and its potential to decontaminate the wastewaters from food processing. The high proportion of fermentable sugars is another attractive advantage for the ethanol conversion from duckweed biomass. In addition, the residue from biofuel production may have potential applications in the field of animal feed and medicines.

In this project based in the Biorefinery Centre, we have investigated the production of bioethanol from duckweed (Lemna minor) biomass. Our approach involved four steps: firstly, analysis of the chemical characteristics of duckweed, particularly the polysaccharides of the cell wall; secondly, exploration of suitable commercial enzymes for degrading duckweed biomass to fermentable sugars; thirdly, optimisation of pretreatments and enzymatic saccharification; finally, fermentation and optimisation of the ethanol yield.

Pond-grown L. minor contained over 50% carbohydrate (w/w dry matter) of which nearly 80% (including glucose, galactose and xylose) was fermentable. The additional use of steam explosion further improved the glucose yield from saccharification at a very low enzyme dosage. Finally, simultaneous saccharification and fermentation was used to investigate the ethanol production from the steam exploded duckweed biomass and the ethanol yield was optimised on a highly viscous substrate (20 % w/w).


Zhao X., Elliston A., Collins S.R.A., Moates G.K., Coleman M.J. & Waldron K.W. (2012) Enzymatic saccharification of duckweed (Lemna minor) biomass without thermophysical pretreatment, Biomass & Bioenergy 47 354-361.

Zhao, X., Moates, G.K., Collins, S.R.A., Wellner, N., Coleman, M.J., Waldron, K.W., (2014), Chemical characterisation and analysis of the cell wall polysaccharides of duckweed (Lemna minor), Carbohydrate Polymers 111 410-418.

Zhao X., Moates G.K., Elliston A., Wilson D.R., Coleman M.J. & Waldron K.W. (2015) Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation of steam exploded duckweed: Improvement of the ethanol yield by increasing yeast titre, Bioresource Technology 194 263-269.