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A car company moves closer to making cellulosic ethanol ecomomically

By Tetsuo Satoh |

Using gene recombination technology, Toyota Motor Corp. (TMC; Toyota City, Japan: www2.toyota.co.jp/en) has developed a new strain of yeast that achieves one of the highest ethanol-fermentation density levels in the world — approximately 47 g/L with 87% yield (based on the feed sugar). In addition to the high yield, TMC’s yeast is highly efficient at fermenting xylose, which is normally difficult to ferment for naturally occurring yeasts. The new yeast is also highly resistant to fermentation-inhibiting substances, such as acetic acid. TMC is focusing on cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from non-edible plants that have significantly less impact on world food supplies. Aiming to achieve production-cost parity with other liquid fuels, such as gasoline, TMC hopes to achieve a stable supply of raw-material plant fibers as well as technologies that reduce production costs. Napier Grass from Indonesia is a promising raw material because it not only thrives on land unsuitable for growing crops, but has a production volume and cultivation cost of 50 ton/ha/yr and ¥4/kg, respectively, which is very competitive compared to rice straw from Japan (26 ton/ha/yr, ¥7/kg); Acacia from Malaysia (21 ton/ha/yr, ¥6.3/kg);…
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