Tuesday, 31 July 2012 10:42
July 31, 2012
A team of researchers at Michigan State University have developed a new biofuel production process that produced roughly 20 times more energy than current methods.
The team's findings, published in a July issue of Environmental Science and Technology, discuss how microbes can be used to create biofuel and hydrogen while at the same time consuming agricultural wastes. Although the process has been studied before, maximum energy recoveries have typically remained at about 3.5 percent.
The new method, says engineering research leader Gemma Reguera, averaged 35 to 40 percent energy recovery from the fermentation process alone.
"This is because the fermentative bacterium was carefully selected to degrade and ferment agricultural wastes into ethanol efficiently and to produce byproducts that could be metabolized by the electricity-producing bacterium," Reguera said. "By removing the waste products of fermentation, the growth and metabolism of the fermentative bacterium also was stimulated."
According to The New York Times, biofuels have gained the most momentum as the likely replacement for fossil fuels, as they single handedly create a new, lucrative market for farm products and agricultural waste. Some of the earliest biofuels include ethanol - derived from either corn or sugar cane - or fuel made from vegetable oil.