"But the patented enzymes are expensive to buy. We are proud to now introduce a completely enzyme-free technique that is not patented and not expensive. The technique can be used by everybody ", explains Per Morgen.
Together with colleagues from the University of Baghdad and Al-Muthanna University in Iraq, he explains that it is not an enzyme, but an acid that plays the main role in the new technique. The acid is called RHSO3H, and it is made on the basis of rice husks.
"My Iraqi colleagues have made the acid from treated rice husk. The worldwide production of rice generates enormous amounts of rice husk and ashes from burning the husk, so this material is cheap and easy to get hold of", he says.
It's all about the acid
The ashes from burnt rice husks have a high content of silicate, and this is the important compound in the production of the new acid. The scientists paired silicate particles with chlorosulfonic acid and this made the acid molecules attach themselves to the silicate compounds.
"The result was an entirely new molecule - the acid RHSO3H - which can replace the enzymes in the work of breaking down cellulose to sugar", explains Per Morgen.
He is particularly proud that all levels in this new way of producing bioethanol are environmentally friendly and accessible for all: The catalyst acid is made from readily available plant left overs, and it can be reused many times. The recipe cannot be patented and the bioethanol is produced from cellulosic plants that cannot otherwise be used for anything else."Cellulose is the most common biological material in the world, so there is plenty of it", he adds.
Since 2010 it has been mandatory in Denmark to add five per cent ethanol to all gasoline sold in the country. You can add up to 85 per cent bioethanol to gasoline, and this is common in several South American countries. Danish research institutions and DON
|Contact: Birgitte Svennevig|
University of Southern Denmark