Method that Converts Plant Waste into Biofuels Has Been Discovered

​Scientists have managed to create a novel technique that dissolves plant fibers in order to facilitate the transformation process of plant debris into biofuels.

The team of developers was led by Rutgers and created a new method that could make it cheaper and easier to generate biofuels, such as ethanol from plant waste and decrease the dependability on fossil fuels.

Their technique, packing a solvent based on ammonia-salt, manages to rapidly turn plant fibers into sugars required to make ethanol, functions very well at close room temperature, dissimilar to common methods, as per a Rutgers-led study​ published in the journal Green Chemistry.

“Our pretreatment system can slash – by up to 50-fold – the use of enzymes to turn solvent-treated cellulose (plant fiber) into glucose (a sugar) used to make bioproducts like ethanol,” said senior author Shishir P. S. Chundawat, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. 

“Similar processes could greatly reduce the cost of producing biofuels from waste biomass like corn stalks and leaves.”

A Better Way to Get Biofuels

The composition can also extract over 80 percent of the lignin in plant waste. Lignin, which links to and strengthens plant fibers, could be utilized to help enhance important aromatic chemicals in the future, Chundawat said.

The study was a collaborative effort and had access to a high-tech Bio-SANS tool at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for assays on the way complex biological systems like plant waste react during processing to better comprehend how cellulose is disintegrated at a molecular extent.

Accelerating the transformation of cellulose into sugars such as glucose with enzymes needs proper solvents or heat, or chemical-based pretreatments. The ammonia-salt based composition quickens the transformation of cellulose into sugars utilizing enzymes. It can significantly decrease the cost of biofuels production due to the fact that enzymes can justify approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of the cost of making biofuels such as ethanol from biomass.

Following research will be added towards optimizing the pretreatment process for biomasses such as corn stover, municipal solid wastes, and bioenergy crops that could be transformed into fuels.

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