Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

More economical process for making ethanol from nonfood sources

Date:
March 26, 2010
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a way to lower the cost of converting wood, corn stalks and other materials into ethanol fuel. Their process reduces amounts of costly enzymes needed to break down tough cell fibrous matter in biomass for fermentation into alcohol.

Switch grass swaying in the breeze could become a more economical source of ethanol to power cars down the highway thanks to discovery of a way to reduce the cost of making ethanol from non-food biomass.
Credit: US Dept. of Agriculture

Scientists in Wisconsin are reporting discovery of a way to lower the cost of converting wood, corn stalks and leaves, switch grass, and other non-food biomass materials into ethanol fuel. They describe their process, which reduces amounts of costly enzymes needed to break down tough fibrous cellulose matter in biomass for fermentation into alcohol, at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco March 25.

Related Articles


"We believe our finding will have a major impact on the economics of cellulose to biofuels conversions," said Rajai Atalla, Ph.D. "We think it can make cellulose significantly more competitive with corn as the primary source of glucose as a feedstock for biofuels." Atalla is the founder of Cellulose Sciences International in Madison, Wisc.

Ethanol has become a mainstay in stretching out supplies of gasoline as the United States and other countries seek renewable sources of energy to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil. Most of the ethanol added to gasoline comes from the starch and sugar in corn, sugar beets, sugar cane, and other food crops. Questions have arisen, however, on whether that approach is sustainable, and about its impact in increasing food prices and reducing the availability of food.

Atalla's involvement with research on cellulose dates to the 1960s, but it was a recent experience that inspired much of his focus on ethanol from cellulose rather than corn. In 2007, he read about people in Mexico struggling with the high cost of corn due to increased demand for corn to make ethanol.

"It got me thinking," Atalla recalled. "I thought, 'This is ridiculous.' If we can produce what we need from cellulose, rather than starch, we won't need to compete with food products. But we faced huge obstacles. The enzymes needed to use cellulose cost about 10 times more than those used for converting corn. With the treatment we've developed, though, we may be able to cut the enzyme cost to about the same range as it is for corn, which would make cellulose a much more viable biomass substrate for the production of biofuel."

The conversion of cellulose to glucose has long remained a challenge for scientists because of its resistance to change into simpler sugars. The process that Atalla and colleagues have developed makes the cellulose break down more easily and could make cellulosic ethanol more competitive to corn ethanol and a viable energy source. It also is not as energy intensive as other biofuel conversion processes like biomass gasification.

Experiments showed they were able to convert up to 80 percent more cellulose when compared to traditional conversion processes. "Using this new technique, we expect that we will be able to reduce the prerequisite dosage of enzymes by a factor of 10, which could bring the cost of enzymes for cellulose conversion to the same level as that for corn," he said.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "More economical process for making ethanol from nonfood sources." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100325121952.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2010, March 26). More economical process for making ethanol from nonfood sources. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100325121952.htm
American Chemical Society. "More economical process for making ethanol from nonfood sources." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100325121952.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 30, 2015) — A nanosensor that mimics the oral effects and sensations of drinking wine has been developed by Danish and Portuguese researchers. Jim Drury saw it in operation. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tesla 'Insane Mode' Gives Unsuspecting Passengers the Ride of Their Life

Tesla 'Insane Mode' Gives Unsuspecting Passengers the Ride of Their Life

RightThisMinute (Jan. 29, 2015) — If your car has an "Insane Mode" then you know it&apos;s fast. Well, these unsuspecting passengers were in for one insane ride when they hit the button. Tesla cars are awesome. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
Now Bill Gates Is 'Concerned' About Artificial Intelligence

Now Bill Gates Is 'Concerned' About Artificial Intelligence

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) — Bill Gates joins the list of tech moguls scared of super-intelligent machines. He says more people should be concerned, but why? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) — The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
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