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Cellulosic Sugar, Not Cellulosic Ethanol

Anyone who’s taken microeconomics remembers one of cialis generic its first lessons: things are more efficient when people specialize their tasks. A recent article by Greentech Media points out that this idea could be utilized to give the biomass energy industry a little jolt. What specialization am I talking about? Sugar.

The two types of biomass energy that involve sugar chemistry are cellulosic ethanol and 5 mg propecia buy algae/bacteria derived fuel. The latter consume simple sugars and turn them into more useful chemicals; usually ethanol, but increasingly other compounds which might make even better fuels – such as butanol and kerosene (jet fuel).

The scientific challenge has always been to convert cellulose to sugar, but – according to the article – no one (other than academics) has been focusing on commercializing this step alone. Rather, the cellulosic ethanol plants incorporate the cellulose-to-sugar step as part of their overall process rather than focus on it exclusively. The people growing algae and bacteria, meanwhile, are more focused on genetically engineering their bugs to build sugar into exciting new molecules than they are on developing better ways to make that sugar.

Which isn’t to say that research on the issue is viagra generic india not progressing. Currently, we do it with harsh chemicals and lots of heat – not very green, and not very economical. A Wired Magazine article from last year profiled a number of scientists and companies searching for cleaner and cheaper ways to break down cellulose; the goal is to find an enzyme that will speed up the process.

Where are they looking? Tropical rainforests. Termites digest cellulose all the recommended site viagra cheap time, with the help of bacteria in their gut. The hope is that a very powerful cellulase (cellulose-digesting enzyme) might already exist in one of the countless undiscovered and cialis 25mg undocumented species of bacteria out there in the wild.

Such explorations are exciting, but the main point here is that we need to focus on cellulosic sugar – rather than just cellulosic ethanol - and treat it as a commodity. The Department of Energy has set a goal of bringing the price of such sugar to 6-8 cents per pound (compared to today’s 22 cents per pound for corn-based sugar, even WITH government subsidies). Since sugar is a common feedstock both for those who wish to make ethanol and those who wish to make other compounds, the lessons of economics seem to dictate that there is a future for a companies who wish to specialize in this one step.

Via Greentech Media, WIRED

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Comments (3)Add Comment
written by nicster, October 28, 2008
Other places people look for cellulase-rich bacteria are compost piles and landfills. Many of these bacteria have the added advantage of being able to survive relatively higher temperatures.

Often, creation of usable quantities of how to get viagra ethanol involves tinkering with the metabolism of the bacteria to optimize ethanol production. This has the cialis soft tablets advantage of using one organism for two purposes. It may be possible to do similar types of tinkering to create other end-products. In this case, it may actually be more efficient to follow link viagra 100mg have one organism do two tasks, since you eliminate one step in the process.
written by Ron Wagner, October 28, 2008
Has anyone tried just letting southern termites just eat the cellulose, and then process the waste material? Just give them the right humidity and temperature.
Fractionation of ligno-cellulosic material
written by Dave Juszczyk, September 09, 2009
Actually, for 10 years, PureVision Technology has been developing the process for efficiently converting cellulosic material to fermentable sugars. We are currently operating a 1/2 ton/day Fractionator using corn stover and bagasse feedstocks and obtaining solid and liquid fractions that are each then used to derive sugars for fermentation. Without getting into too much detail, the highly purified solid fraction of cellulose is digested to create glucose; the liquid fraction is processed to create both C5 and C6 sugars, and solids that can be used for direct energy use or as industrial chemicals. A number of co-products are possible with this process that improve the economics for refinery operators. The business plan calls for this to go through 2 scale up steps to full commercialization in 30 to 36 months. If anyone is interested in further information, they can contact me directly at PureVision.

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