Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Corn Waste Potentially More Than Ethanol

Date:
July 19, 2006
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
After the corn harvest, whether for cattle feed or corn on the cob, farmers usually leave the stalks and stems in the field, but now, a team of Penn State researchers think corn stover can be used not only to manufacture ethanol, but to generate electricity directly.

After the corn harvest, whether for cattle feed or corn on the cob, farmers usually leave the stalks and stems in the field, but now, a team of Penn State researchers think corn stover can be used not only to manufacture ethanol, but to generate electricity directly.

"People are looking at using cellulose to make ethanol," says Dr. Bruce E. Logan, the Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering. "You can make ethanol from exploded corn stover, but once you have the sugars, you can make electricity directly."

Logan's process uses a microbial fuel cell to convert organic material into electricity. Previous work has shown that these fuel cells can generate electricity from glucose and from municipal wastewater and that these cells can also directly generate hydrogen gas.

Corn stalks and leaves, amassing 250 million tons a year, make up a third of the total solid waste produced in the United States. Currently, 90 percent of corn stover is left unused in the field. Corn stover is about 70 percent cellulose or hemicellulose, complex carbohydrates that are locked in chains. A steam explosion process releases the organic sugars and other compounds in the corn waste and these compounds can be fed to microbial fuel cells.

The microbial fuel cells contain two electrodes and anaerobic bacteria – bacteria that do not need oxygen – that consume the sugars and other organic material and release electrons. These electrons travel to the anode and flow in a wire to the cathode, producing electrical current. The water in the fuel cell donates positive hydrogen atoms that combine with the electrons and oxygen to form water.

The microbial fuel cells were inoculated with domestic wastewater and a nutrient medium containing glucose, the researchers report in the journal Energy and Fuels. Once established, the bacteria colonies were fed the sugary organic liquid obtained from steam exploding of corn stover.

The researchers, who include Logan, Yi Zuo, Penn State graduate student in environmental engineering, and Pin-Ching Maness, senior scientist, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, report that "the conversion of organic matter to electricity, on the basis of biological oxygen demand removal, was relatively high with greater than 93 percent of the biological oxygen demand removed."

In essence, there is no organic matter left to cause problems when disposing of the remaining liquid because there is nothing left to oxidize. The process converts all the available energy to electricity. The electrical production is about one watt for every square meter of surface area at about 0.5 volts. A typical light bulb uses 60 watts. To increase wattage, the surface area needs to increase. To increase voltage, fuel cells can be linked in series.

"Producing electricity from steam exploded corn stover adds to the energy diversity of our portfolio," says Logan. "Electricity can be used to pump water uphill for later use, directly run light, heat and equipment or electrolyze water to create hydrogen."

The Penn State researcher and colleagues have also used microbial fuel cells and wastewater to produce hydrogen gas directly.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation funded this research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Corn Waste Potentially More Than Ethanol." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060719091421.htm>.
Penn State. (2006, July 19). Corn Waste Potentially More Than Ethanol. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060719091421.htm
Penn State. "Corn Waste Potentially More Than Ethanol." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060719091421.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins