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.

Related Articles


"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, 2015 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, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, April 24, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Food Printing: The Meal of the Future?

3D Food Printing: The Meal of the Future?

AP (Apr. 23, 2015) — Developers of 3D food printing hope the culinary technology will revolutionize the way we cook and eat. (April 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Safest Bike Ever' Devised by British Entrepreneur

'Safest Bike Ever' Devised by British Entrepreneur

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 23, 2015) — A British inventor says his Babel bike is the safest bicycle ever produced. Crispin Sinclair - son of famous British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair - hopes the bike&apos;s safety cage, double seatbelt, and host of other measures will inspire non-cyclists to get in the saddle. Jim Drury went to see it in action. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Successful Aerial Refueling of a Drone

First Successful Aerial Refueling of a Drone

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 23, 2015) — The bat-wing U.S. Navy drone that became the first autonomous airplane to take off and land on an aircraft carrier accomplished yet another milestone on Wednesday, becoming the first unmanned aircraft to undergo aerial refueling. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Human or Robot You Decide

Human or Robot You Decide

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 23, 2015) — An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called &apos;Han&apos; recognises and interprets people&apos;s facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital. Matthew Stock reports. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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