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CO2-free ethanol production from lignocellulose

By Tetsuo Satoh |

The research group of professor Shiro Saka at the Dept. of Socio-Environmental Energy Science, Graduate School of Energy Science, Kyoto University (Kyoto, Japan; www.ecs.energy.kyoto-u.ac.jp) has developed a new process that efficiently produces bioethanol from non-edible lignocellulose resources, without generating carbon dioxide. The two-step process is able to produce 700 L of ethanol per ton of biomass — more than double the 300-L/ton yield of existing fermentation methods, which also discharge about one third of the total carbon as CO2. In the process, lignocellulose is first decomposed by hot, pressurized water. In a two-culture fermentation process, the decomposition products are then converted to acetic acid, followed by esterification and hydrogenolysis to produce ethanol. The researchers believe their achievement will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions, and are working to enhance the process, as well as beginning collaboration with industrial partners.  
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