Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researcher Closes in On Ethanol Breakthrough that Reduces Need to Use Corn to Make Ethanol

22.08.2008
A yeast geneticist on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is close to developing mutant yeast for ethanol production that would reduce or eliminate the need to use corn to make the alternative fuel.

The production of biofuels from basic plant material, rather than corn and other crops, would address concerns that making corn-based ethanol is pushing up food costs, said Mark Goebl, a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the IU School of Medicine

Goebl’s work is part of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy, which was established to address the societal needs for clean, affordable and renewable energy sources, improve the nation’s energy security, and reduce global warming. Its primary mission is to promote research excellence in the area of renewable energy through collaborative efforts among faculty in the disciplines of engineering, chemistry, physics, biology, and environmental affairs. It will promote renewable energy applications through teaching, learning, civic engagement, and synergistic partnerships with industry, government labs and local communities.

Areas of current research include renewable energy through fuel cell technology, renewable hydrogen (solar, reformers), environmentally benign usage of renewable fuels , bio-fuel production and applications, and advanced battery technology.

Goebl said the crux of the problem of using basic plant material to make ethanol involves how yeast decide what they will eat.

When corn is used to make ethanol, yeast couldn’t be happier. Corn kernels are ground to produce starch and the starch is broken down into glucose. Yeast is then used to ferment the glucose into ethanol.

“Although yeast can derive energy from a lot of different carbon sources, such as fatty acids and different kinds of sugars, yeast really, really like glucose, the sugar found in honey,” Goebl said. “That’s what they will use if it’s there, even if it’s there only in trace amounts.”

And that’s where the sticking point occurs. During the fermentation process, there is always a trickle of glucose coming into the system.

Unlike corn kernels, one-third of basic plant material consists of compounds that produce pine resins for which there are useful purposes. One- third is cellulose, which can be converted to glucose and used to make ethanol. But one-third is another kind of sugar, xylose, which yeast turn away from, like a child who is a picky eater pushes a vegetable to the side of his plate.

Goebl has developed strains of yeast that will utilize the xylose, even if glucose is around.

“How do you get yeast to give up their habit of using only glucose, no matter what else is around?” Goebl asked. The answer, he continued, is genetics.

“Yeast essentially care about glucose because they are genetically programmed that way, not because there is any physiological reason they have to care about glucose,” he said. “We can genetically change that program. We are using genetics to modify yeast strains so that they will use other sugars just as well as glucose.”

Producing mutant yeast strains that will eat xylose just as well as glucose means nearly doubling the amount of ethanol you get from the same volume of basic plant material. “You get a lot more ethanol for the same amount of work.”

Another advantage of reducing or eliminating the need to use corn to make ethanol is that the rich farmland needed to grow corn isn’t needed to grow basic plant material. “Essentially, you can go out and mow your lawn.”

Rich Schneider | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.iupui.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Waste from paper and pulp industry supplies raw material for development of new redox flow batteries
12.10.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Low-cost battery from waste graphite
11.10.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA team finds noxious ice cloud on saturn's moon titan

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

19.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>