Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New technique improves efficiency of biofuel production

Date:
July 1, 2010
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Researchers have developed a more efficient technique for producing biofuels from woody plants that significantly reduces the waste that results from conventional biofuel production techniques. The technique is a significant step toward creating a commercially viable new source of biofuels.

“Our eventual goal is to use this technique for any type of feedstock, to produce any biofuel or biochemical that can use these sugars,” says Dr. Ratna Sharma-Shivappa.
Credit: Image courtesy of North Carolina State University

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a more efficient technique for producing biofuels from woody plants that significantly reduces the waste that results from conventional biofuel production techniques. The technique is a significant step toward creating a commercially viable new source of biofuels.

"This technique makes the process more efficient and less expensive," says Dr. Ratna Sharma-Shivappa, associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at NC State and co-author of the research. "The technique could open the door to making lignin-rich plant matter a commercially viable feedstock for biofuels, curtailing biofuel's reliance on staple food crops."

Traditionally, to make ethanol, butanol or other biofuels, producers have used corn, beets or other plant matter that is high in starches or simple sugars. However, since those crops are also significant staple foods, biofuels are competing with people for those crops.

However, other forms of biomass -- such as switchgrass or inedible corn stalks -- can also be used to make biofuels. But these other crops pose their own problem: their energy potential is locked away inside the plant's lignin -- the woody, protective material that provides each plant's structural support. Breaking down that lignin to reach the plant's component carbohydrates is an essential first step toward making biofuels.

At present, researchers exploring how to create biofuels from this so-called "woody" material treat the plant matter with harsh chemicals that break it down into a carbohydrate-rich substance and a liquid waste stream. These carbohydrates are then exposed to enzymes that turn the carbohydrates into sugars that can be fermented to make ethanol or butanol.

This technique often results in a significant portion of the plant's carbohydrates being siphoned off with the liquid waste stream. Researchers must either incorporate additional processes to retrieve those carbohydrates, or lose them altogether.

But now researchers from NC State have developed a new way to free the carbohydrates from the lignin. By exposing the plant matter to gaseous ozone, with very little moisture, they are able to produce a carbohydrate-rich solid with no solid or liquid waste.

"This is more efficient because it degrades the lignin very effectively and there is little or no loss of the plant's carbohydrates," Sharma-Shivappa says. "The solid can then go directly to the enzymes to produce the sugars necessary for biofuel production."

Sharma notes that the process itself is more expensive than using a bath of harsh chemicals to free the carbohydrates, but is ultimately more cost-effective because it makes more efficient use of the plant matter.

The researchers have recently received a grant from the Center for Bioenergy Research and Development to fine-tune the process for use with switchgrass and miscanthus grass. "Our eventual goal is to use this technique for any type of feedstock, to produce any biofuel or biochemical that can use these sugars," Sharma-Shivappa says.

The research, "Effect of ozonolysis on bioconversion of miscanthus to bioethanol," was co-authored by Sharma-Shivappa, NC State Ph.D. student Anushadevi Panneerselvam, Dr. Praveen Kolar, an assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering at NC State, Dr. Thomas Ranney, a professor of horticultural science at NC State, and Dr. Steve Peretti, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State. The research is partially funded by the Biofuels Center of North Carolina and was presented June 23 at the 2010 Annual International Meeting of the American Society for Agricultural and Biological Engineers in Pittsburgh, PA.

NC State's Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering is a joint department of the university's College of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "New technique improves efficiency of biofuel production." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630115143.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2010, July 1). New technique improves efficiency of biofuel production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630115143.htm
North Carolina State University. "New technique improves efficiency of biofuel production." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630115143.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) 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:
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