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Mar 9, 2010

Developing Biofuel from Raw Biomass

The National Academy of Sciences and the University of Wisconsin report that a research team at the University of Wisconsin's biochemistry department  has developed a new chemical method to produced fermentable sugars from inedible plant biomass that can be used to produce biofuel. 

The project uses chemistry to create cellulosic biofuel by unleashing sugar molecules trapped inside inedible plant biomass.  This process is different from the enzymatic currently used to produce ethanol.  This project uses inedible plant material are used such as corn stover, switchgrass and wood chips that do not compete with food sources.  The chemicals used are less expensive than enzymes and do not require that the biomass by pre-treated.

The project is headed by Dr. Ronald Raines and Joe Binder, a doctoral candidate in the chemistry department.  There are still a number of hurdles to overcome to make this process work at the industrial scale.  The project is funded with support from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a U.S. Department of Energy bioenergy research center located at UW-Madison, and the National Science Foundation.

Photo Credit: World of Energy Factsheets.

For more see:

Binder, Joseph B. and Ronald T. Raines.  "Fermentable Sugars by Chemical Hydrolysis of Biomass." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  (9 March 2010), 107: 10, 4516-4521.

Miller, Nicole. “From Raw Biomass, Chemical Process Produces Simple, Fermentable Sugars,” University of Wisconsin News, 9 March 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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