backtop


Print 71 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Aug 2 at 5:22 PM

Process promises 10 fold increase in simple sugar production from non-food crops

As scientists all around the world look for alternatives to oil for fuel, several options have materialized. Electricity has a significant amount of support behind it, but for many drivers an electric vehicle isn't a real option due to the extremely limited range current battery technology can provide.

One of the few fuel alternatives not based on oil that is currently in use in relatively large quantities is ethanol. Many of the fueling stations around the U.S. now have stickers on pumps that say the gasoline is mixed with 10% ethanol. Large portions of General Motor's vehicles are already capable of running on 85% ethanol.

The problem with the mass production of ethanol is that the crops most suited to making ethanol -- corn, potatoes, and sugar cane -- are also food crops that are needed to feed people in many developing parts of the world. Another problem is that production costs for ethanol using these food crops vary with the price of the food crops. Another fear is that in areas where the amount of land for growing food crops is limited, the amount of crops grown that need to go to human consumption could be greatly reduced leading to increased food shortages around the world.

For these reasons, significant resources have been dedicated to finding other renewable plant sources for ethanol not based on food crops. Cellulosic ethanol production is one source of ethanol not based on food crops and could possibly produce ethanol for as little as $1 per gallon. One startup company, called LS9, has claimed it has developed a process that uses bacteria to produce synthetic gas using biowaste and weeds.

The University of Georgia (UGA) announced that a team of researchers at the university has developed a new technology that could greatly increase the yield of ethanol produced from non-food crops like Bermudagrass, switchgrass, Napiergrass and possibly even clippings from lawns.

According to UGA, its process uses a fast, mild, and acid-free pretreatment process to increase the amount of simple sugars released by inexpensive biomass by a factor of ten. UGA also says that corn stover or bagasse -- the waste material left behind after corn and sugar cane harvests -- can be used to produce ethanol with its process.

Professor of microbiology and chair of UGA's Bioenergy Task Force, Joy Peterson said in a statement, "Producing ethanol from renewable biomass sources such as grasses is desirable because they are potentially available in large quantities. Optimizing the breakdown of the plant fibers is critical to production of liquid transportation fuel via fermentation.”

The researchers say that the same plant materials used to produce ethanol in its process can be used to produce ethanol with other processes commonly used today. However, the process typically needed to convert the fibrous stalks, leaves, and blades of plant wastes into simple sugars requires soaking under high pressure and high temperatures. The process produces hazardous solutions and byproducts that must be removed and disposed of safely.

The UGA researchers say that their process is environmentally friendly and removes the harsh pre-treatment chemicals and the need to dispose of the harsh chemicals and side products produced using traditional methods.

Gennaro Gama, UGARF technology manager in charge of licensing the UGA technology said, "By allowing for the use of myriad raw materials, this technology allows more options for ethanol facilities trying to meet nearby demand by using locally available, inexpensive starting materials. This would greatly reduce the costs and carbon footprint associated with the delivery of raw materials to fermentation facilities and the subsequent delivery of ethanol to points of sale. Local production of ethanol may also protect specific areas against speculative fluctuations in fuel prices."

Gama added, "It’s easy to imagine that this easy-to-use, inexpensive technology could be used by local governments, alone or in partnership with entrepreneurs, to meet local demand for ethanol, possibly using yard waste as a substrate."



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Nobody really cares.
By SiliconJon on 7/30/2008 7:31:41 PM , Rating: 2
And maybe we can get our lawns mowed on the cheap as businesses sell us lawn cutting jobs by the block, reducing costs by using the clippings for fuel production and improving efficiency by getting us in large yard-chunks.

Though I love the alternatives and improvements we continue to make, my bicycle has saved me more gasoline than any of my available alternatives. Granted not everybody can use a bicycle for most of their communting, but there are many who can. If that's YOU (general audience), give it a try - it feels good and saves gas money.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By James Wood Carter on 7/30/2008 7:36:47 PM , Rating: 3
Its not so cool when its raining though, but yeah cycling can be addictive specially when the route involves stretches of forests and fields


RE: Nobody really cares.
By Ringold on 7/30/2008 9:22:25 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, I enjoy it for recreation, but I'm in Florida. It's not suitable to replace any of my commuting at all. Not that I travel 100 miles to get to a Publix, it's just that I prefer not to be a sweaty mess when arriving at most destination, and rather hard not to be one with 90+ยบ F and 80+% humidity.

Just spent a week in Indiana, and the weather was beautiful, but for a good chunk of the summer I'd still not put on a suit and go for any distance.

Car > all else


"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki