While paper companies have made tremendous strides in creating “eco-friendly” versions of their products in recent years, one of the greatest bars to this has been the harsh chemicals used in the manufacture of paper itself.
That’s because (warning: just a little bit of science to follow) of a chemical compound in the cells of trees called lignin; this is the substance that gives wood its strength. To remove this from the wood so that paper can be made, those chemicals are used.
Now, a team of scientists reports that it has determined which molecules (micro RNAs) in a tree’s cells control how much lignin is made. The findings of Dr. Vincent Chiang (right) of N.C. State’s Forest Biotechnology Research Center and his team may lead to the breeding of trees with less lignin, meaning a decrease in the amount of chemicals needed to make paper. All the science-y bits here.