University of Georgia researchers have developed a new technology that promises to dramatically increase the yield of ethanol from readily available non-food crops, such as Bermudagrass, switchgrass, Napiergrassand even yard waste.
"Producing ethanol from renewable biomass sources such as grasses is desirable because they are potentially available in large quantities," said Joy Peterson, professor of microbiology and chair of UGA's Bioenergy Task Force. "Optimizing the breakdown of the plant fibers is critical to production of liquid transportation fuel via fermentation." Peterson developed the new technology with former UGA microbiology student Sarah Kate Brandon, and Mark Eiteman, professor of biological and agricultural engineering.
The new technology features a fast, mild, acid-free pretreatment process that increases by at least 10 times the amount of simple sugars released from inexpensive biomass for conversion to ethanol. The technology effectively eliminates the use of expensive and environmentally unsafe chemicals currently used to pretreat biomass.
The technology is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., which has filed a patent application.
Inexpensive waste productsincluding corn stover or bagasse, the waste from corn and sugar cane harvests, fast-growing weedsand non-food crops grown for biofuel, such as switchgrass, Napiergrass and Bermudagrass, are widely viewed as the best sustainable resources for ethanol made from biofuels.
"Using non-food crops that can be grown on marginal lands, like grasses, and fibrous waste streams like corn stover, is important because of the ongoing food-versus-fuel debate," said Peterson. "When agricultural crops, such as corn or potatoes, are grown for biofuels production, the cost of the starting material may fluctuate greatly because of competing demands for food and feed. The trade-off with using a biomass like grasses is
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University of Georgia