Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Two-step Chemical Process Turns Raw Biomass Into Biofuel

Date:
February 20, 2009
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Taking a chemical approach, researchers have developed a two-step method to convert the cellulose in raw biomass into a promising biofuel. The process is unprecedented in its use of untreated, inedible biomass as the starting material.

The key to the new process is the first step, in which cellulose is converted into the "platform" chemical 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), from which a variety of valuable commodity chemicals can be made.

"Other groups have demonstrated some of the individual steps involved in converting biomass to HMF, starting with glucose or fructose," says Ronald Raines, a professor with appointments in the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Chemistry. "What we did was show how to do the whole process in one step, starting with biomass itself."

Raines and graduate student Joseph Binder, a doctoral candidate in the chemistry department, developed a unique solvent system that makes this conversion possible. The special mix of solvents and additives, for which a patent is pending, has an extraordinary capacity to dissolve cellulose, the long chains of energy-rich sugar molecules found in plant material. Because cellulose is one of the most abundant organic substances on the planet, it is widely seen as a promising alternative to fossil fuels.

"This solvent system can dissolve cotton balls, which are pure cellulose," says Raines. "And it's a simple system—not corrosive, dangerous, expensive or stinky."

This approach simultaneously bypasses another vexing problem: lignin, the glue that holds plant cell walls together. Often described as intractable, lignin molecules act like a cage protecting the cellulose they surround. However, Raines and Binder used chemicals small enough to slip between the lignin molecules, where they work to dissolve the cellulose, cleave it into its component pieces and then convert those pieces into HMF.

In step two, Raines and Binder subsequently converted HMF into the promising biofuel 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF). Taken together, the overall yield for this two-step biomass-to-biofuel process was 9 percent, meaning that 9 percent of the cellulose in their corn stover samples was ultimately converted into biofuel.

"The yield of DMF isn't fabulous yet, but that second step hasn't been optimized," says Raines, who is excited about DMF's prospects as a biofuel. DMF, he notes, has the same energy content as gasoline, doesn't mix with water and is compatible with the existing liquid transportation fuel infrastructure. It has already been used as a gasoline additive.

In addition to corn stover, Raines and Binder have tested their method using pine sawdust, and they're looking for more samples to try out. "Our process is so general I think we can make DMF or HMF out of any type of biomass," he says.

Raines's first foray into biofuels development was supported by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a U.S. Department of Energy bioenergy research center located at the UW-Madison. Additional support was provided through a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to Binder.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Two-step Chemical Process Turns Raw Biomass Into Biofuel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090210182439.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2009, February 20). Two-step Chemical Process Turns Raw Biomass Into Biofuel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090210182439.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Two-step Chemical Process Turns Raw Biomass Into Biofuel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090210182439.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 24, 2014) General Electric keeps quiet on reports it's in talks to buy French turbine and train maker Alstom. Ivor Bennett reports on what could be an embarrassing rumour for the French government, with business-friendly reforms proving a hard sell. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama briefly played soccer with a robot during his visit to Japan on Thursday. The President has been emphasizing technology along with security concerns during his visit. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama spoke with student innovators in Japan and urged them to take part in increased opportunities for student exchanges with the US. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
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