January 26, 2009

Cheaper cellulosic ethanol on tap

Use a genetically engineered yeast to break down agricultural waste but leave out the nutrient supplements and some pretreatment steps, and you have a potentially inexpensive source of ethanol.

Using a previously developed yeast strain to make ethanol from corn stover can generate a commercially-viable 40 grams per liter. The key is pretreating the feedstock with ammonia but skipping other pretreatment steps, nutrient supplements and washing. Yields improved by cutting out nutrient additives, counter to previous experience.

Yields of 52.5 grams per liter should be possible in the near future, in part by developing yeast strains that convert complex as well as simple sugars.

Simplifying the production of cellulosic ethanol promises to lower costs and make cellulosic ethanol an economically competitive fuel.

Research paper:
Cellulosic Ethanol Production from AFEX-Treated Corn Stover Using Saccharomyces Cerevisiae 424A(LNH-ST)
Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences, published online January 22, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Ming W. Lau
Bruce E. Dale

Related stories and briefs:
Genetically modified microbe cranks out ethanol -- related research
Biomass-to-biofuel simplified -- related research

Further info:
Net energy under fire -- position paper about biofuel metrics by Bruce Dale

Back to ERN January 26/February 2, 2009



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