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Page added on August 1, 2008

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Biofuel breakthrus at the University of Georgia and Iowa State

Biofuels, generally ethanol, are becoming more and more popular as an alternative to fossil fuel. The emissions are cleaner and the fuel is essentially “home grown” so little to no reliance on foreign oil interests. Unfortunately, the processes used to make ethanol from corn or other plant materials has been costly and inefficient. Developments at the University of Georgia and Iowa State should make ethanol production more efficient and cost effective.

Dr. Joy Peterson, professor of microbiology and chair of UGA’s Bioenergy Task Force, announced a new technology for breaking down inexpensive waste products including corn stover or bagasse, the waste from corn and sugar cane harvests, fast-growing weeds and non-food crops grown for biofuel, such as switchgrass, Napiergrass and Bermudagrass.
This is good news since all of these are non food crops and won’t add to the growing threat of food shortages. Corn has now become more valuable as an ethanol source than a food source. Since corn is in just about everything we eat or drink, food costs have gone up.

What exactly this new technology is, has not been divulged since Dr. Patterson, and her co-developers, former UGA microbiology student Sarah Kate Brandon, and Mark Eiteman, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, are applying for a patent. However, the following is known about this new process.

The new technology features a fast, mild, acid-free pretreatment process that increases by at least 10 times the amount of simple sugars released from inexpensive biomass for conversion to ethanol. The technology effectively eliminates the use of expensive and environmentally unsafe chemicals currently used to pretreat biomass.


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