Researchers in the college’s Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering are experimenting with different strains of bacteria that can ferment sugars extracted from wood into biobutanol that can be pumped into automobile gas tanks.
Researchers believe biobutanol — more efficient than ethanol in producing energy and easier to add to the existing gasoline distribution infrastructure — could be the emerging biofuel of the future.
"Biobutanol is one of the next generation of biofuels," said Dr. Timothy Volk of ESF's Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management. "Every day in the United States, two-thirds of the oil we use comes from outside this country. We can see the results of this in the increase in oil and gas prices.
"ESF is working on producing alternative biofuels from locally produced resources. We use wood," he said. "New York state has abundant wood. The forest is growing three times faster than it is being harvested. It can also be grown in the form of shrub willow as an agricultural crop on marginal agricultural land. So we are focused on using woody biomass from willow and natural forests as a feedstock, but other regions will use agricultural crop residuals or perennial grasses."
Volk, who leads the college’s Willow Biomass Project that is developing shrub willow as a renewable energy source, said biobutanol offers several advantages over the ethanol that is commonly mixed with gasoline in a mixture known as E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline).
“Butanol has a higher energy density than ethanol and it can be pumped right into the existing gas pipeline. Going to a higher percentage of ethanol means a new delivery system,” Volk said. “Ethanol is less efficient and harder to mix with regular gas.”
Biobutanol is one of a handful of fuels that can be produced from wood sugars; the specific fuel that is produced depends on what kind of organism is used to ferment the sugar. Butanol, in addition to being a more efficient fuel than ethanol, also has the advantate of serving as a platform chemical for other purposes, including jet fuel.
The biobutanol research happens in a laboratory in Walters Hall on the ESF campus. Dr. Shijie Liu and his research team are experimenting with different strains of bacteria to see which can most effectively ferment the mixed sugars, including glucose and xylose, that have been obtained from wood through a process developed at the college several years ago into biobutanol.
In Liu’s lab, woody biomass such as willow cuttings and wood chips are processed with water to obtain those sugars. A strain of bacterium such as Clostridium acetobutylicum, a microorganism frequently used by industry in fermentation processes, is used to ferment the mixed sugars to butanol.Liu and his students work in laboratories outfitted with an anaerobic chamber, used to fine tune the selection of microorganisms used in the fermentation process, and a bioreactor, in which the fermentation process occurs.
Liu’s research is supported by a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and $75,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Claire B. Dunn | Newswise Science News
Heavy metals in water meet their match
28.07.2017 | Swansea University
Did you know that infrared heat and UV light contribute to the success of your barbecue?
27.07.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Spectrally narrow x-ray pulses may be “sharpened” by purely mechanical means. This sounds surprisingly, but a team of theoretical and experimental physicists developed and realized such a method. It is based on fast motions, precisely synchronized with the pulses, of a target interacting with the x-ray light. Thereby, photons are redistributed within the x-ray pulse to the desired spectral region.
A team of theoretical physicists from the MPI for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg has developed a novel method to intensify the spectrally broad x-ray...
Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.
Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
28.07.2017 | Health and Medicine
28.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
28.07.2017 | Life Sciences