Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dividing corn stover makes ethanol conversion more efficient

26.10.2011
Not all parts of a corn stalk are equal, and they shouldn't be treated that way when creating cellulosic ethanol, say Purdue University researchers.

When corn stover is processed to make cellulosic ethanol, everything is ground down and blended together. But a research team found that three distinct parts of the stover – the rind, pith and leaves – break down in different ways.

Michael Ladisch, a distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering and director of Purdue's Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering; Eduardo Ximenes, a Purdue research scientist in LORRE; and doctoral graduate student Meijuan Zeng are trying to determine if there is a better method to process corn stover and optimize efficiency.

Cellulosic ethanol is created by using enzymes to extract sugars from cellulosic feedstocks, such as corn stover, grasses and woods, and then fermenting and distilling those sugars into fuels.

"Today, researchers grind the parts together and treat it based on what's needed to get at the hardest part," Ximenes said. "We show that there are major differences in degradability among the tissues."

Stover's pith, the soft core that makes up more than half the weight of a corn stalk, is the easiest for enzymes to digest, according to the findings in two papers published in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering. Rind is the most difficult, while leaves fall in between. Significant amounts of lignin, the rigid compound in plant cell walls, make the cellulose resistant to hydrolosis, a process in which cellulose is broken down into sugars.

Ximenes said converting the rinds only adds about 20 percent more ethanol while requiring 10 times more enzymes, driving up the price of the process.

"Is that extra 20 percent worth the added cost?" asked Nathan Mosier, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering and co-author of the study. "Because if there is a way to separate out pith, you could burn the leftover rinds to generate steam, creating energy needed to operate the plant."

Ladisch added that separating pieces of corn stover and treating them differently would be a new way of approaching cellulosic ethanol production.

"It uses existing conversion technology, but it enables us to think about a new way of getting the most from that technology," Ladisch said. "There is absolutely no reason a ligno-cellulosic non-food material such as corn stalk cannot be used to make ethanol if you understand the science."

Also involved in the research were Youngmi Kim, a Purdue research engineer; Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor of agronomy at the University of Florida; Debra Sherman, director of the Purdue Life Science Microscopy Facility; Chia-Ping Huang, microscope technologist at the Life Sciences Microscopy Facility; and Bruce Dien, a chemical engineer with the Bioenergy Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Ladisch and Ximenes said they would next work with colleagues to explore ways to improve the ability of enzymes to create sugars from cellulose and remove the compounds that inhibit those enzymes, as well as adapting the findings for other feedstocks such as switchgrass and wood.

Ladisch is chief technology officer at Mascoma, a renewable fuels company based in New Hampshire. He received no funding from the company for this research, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Purdue Agricultural Research Programs and a David Ross Fellowship.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Sources: Michael Ladisch, 765-494-7022, ladisch@purdue.edu
Nathan Mosier, 765-496-2044, mosiern@purdue.edu
Eduardo Ximenes, 765-494-6695, eximenes@purdue.edu
Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu

Brian Wallheimer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>