A team of researchers headed by an environmental engineer at Washington University in St. Louis is plying new techniques to produce a biofuel superior to ethanol.
The fuel is butanol, It can be derived from lignocellulosic material, plant biomass parts that range from woody stems, straw, agricultural residues, corn fiber and husks, all containing in large part cellulose and some lignin.
Butanol is considered to be a better biofuel than ethanol because its less corrosive and has a higher caloric value, giving a higher energy value. Like ethanol, butanol is being considered as an additive to gasoline.
Lars Angenent, Ph.D., Washington University assistant professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering, takes pre--treated corn fiber , a byproduct of corn-to-ethanol production, from his collaborators at the United States
Department of Agricultural (USDA) research facility in Peoria, Ill., and places the lignocellulosic biomass into digesters comprised of a selected mixed culture of thousands of different microbes to convert the biomass into butyrate.
From there the material is sent back to Peoria where another collaborator, Nasib Qureshi. Ph.D., using fermenters, converts the butyrate to butanol.
The USDA researchers Bruce Dien, Ph.D., and Michael Cotta, Ph.D. use physical and chemical techniques to make the hard-to-degrade lignocellulosic material more amenable to degrade, an important step that allows Angenents mixed media culture to work its magic.
He uses a mixed culture containing thousands of different microorganisms and optimizes environmental conditions to select for a bacterial community that makes an environment conducive to the conversion of the corn fiber to butyrate.
Mixed culture magic
The thrust of my lab is the use of mixed cultures, said Angenent. The advantage of mixed cultures is that it can take just about any wast
|Contact: Lars Angenent|
Washington University in St. Louis