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Decomposition of plant biomass plays a unique and vital role in carbon recycling on earth, but it is also indispensable for many life systems from microorganisms to animals, as a fundamental carbohydrate supply or an important intermediate in food chains. Biomass degradation in nature is generally considered to be a decay processes carried out by microbial communities, mainly consisting of bacteria and fungi. Although most animals lack the capability to use biomass directly, some cellulose-feeding animals subsist on biomass as their main or only food and these animals possess an incredible conversion efficiency. The ability of these animals, from arthropods to mammals, such as termites and cows, to feed on woody or herbaceous plants and detritus, has stimulated extensive investigations into the mechanisms of how these animals efficiently digest the structural and recalcitrant lignocellulose in their foods. Among these animals, termites are the most efficient degrader of cellulose and consume the greatest quantities of plant biomass each year. With these explorations, scientists, long fascinated by the humble termite's ability to turn wood into energy for life, could possibly advance biochemical processes to convert biomass to biofuels and chemicals in industry. Discovering novel lignocellulolytic enzymes and their associated novel genes, and understanding novel lignocellulolytic systems/mechanisms that may apply to a nature-inspired processing via biomimetics in the modern biorefinery of biomass for fuels and chemicals, are especially promising. The extent of biomimetic benefits from cellulose-feeding animals or other unique cellulolytic systems is only just beginning to gain recognition and has scarcely been technically and economically evaluated.

To meet some intractable challenges facing the world in biological conversion of biomass for fuels and chemicals, with a total of 19 unique chapters, this book reviews recent advances in fundamental understanding of the chemical and physical properties of biomass and its decomposition systems in nature, current development of state-of-the-art technologies to improve biomass conversion efficiency, and perspectives on the development of integrated biorefinery to produce cost competitive biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass. Chapter 1 serves as a comprehensive introduction that includes an illustration of the main theme of the book as well as the particular contents of each chapter. Following chapters discussing biomass structure, chemistry and modification (Chapters 2 to 6), natural biomass utilization systems and the applications of these systems/mechanisms to overcome current bottlenecks in industrial biocatalyst processing to generate a product are further presented (Chapters 7 to 19). As a result, this book will meet the needs of academic communities and a variety of industrial groups focused on rapid acceleration of progress in lignocellulosic biofuels and bio-chemicals industries. This book is intended to provide researchers and students with a comprehensive introduction/review to this emerging and a multi- disciplinary field, while also functioning as an important reference for those already active in the areas of biofuels and bio-chemical-related industries.

Jiangzhong Sun

Shi-You Ding

Joy Doran-Peterson

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