Originally published in Interiors & Sources

03/08/2011

Advances in Biofuel Technology

 
DOE research has made significant advances in biofuel technology

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has congratulated a team of researchers at the Department’s BioEnergy Science Center who have achieved advancement toward next generation biofuels.

The research involves using bacteria to convert plant matter directly into isobutanol, which can be used in regular car engines with a heat value higher than ethanol and similar to gasoline.

"Today's announcement is yet another sign of the rapid progress we are making in developing the next generation of biofuels that can help reduce our oil dependence," says Secretary Chu. "This is a perfect example of the promising opportunity we have to create a major new industry—one based on bio-material such as wheat and rice straw, corn stover, lumber wastes, and plants specifically developed for bio-fuel production that require far less fertilizer and other energy inputs. But we must continue with an aggressive research and development effort."

The work is being conducted by researchers at the Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Using consolidated bioprocessing, a research team led by James Liao of the University of California at Los Angeles for the first time produced isobutanol directly from cellulose.

The team's biofuel research, published online in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, represents across-the-board savings in processing costs and time, plus isobutanol is a higher grade of alcohol than ethanol.

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