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'By far the greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it'

 

Eliezer Yudkowsky

Chemical process turns any plant matter, even trees, into biofuels

RATE THIS! +41
Posted in Science on 21st Jan, 2014 10:21 PM by AlexMuller

Biofuel production focuses on taking the carbon that's already present in plants and converting it into burnable carbon-based fuels. Most of the carbon in a plant comes in the form of sugars, which can be readily converted into ethanol and less readily modified into other fuels.

 
Sugar is relatively easy to obtain from things like fruit and seeds, but those are also the sorts of things we like to eat. Most of the sugar in the rest of a plant, however, is locked into a complex polymer called cellulose. Figuring out a way to easily break down cellulose has been one of the major hurdles to the expansion of biofuels.
 
Now, researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison have figured out a chemical treatment that, given a bit of time, can completely dissolve any plant matter including wood. The end result is a solution containing mostly sugars, along with a few other organic molecules, some of which can be shunted off to synthesize the key ingredient of the chemical treatment itself.
 
The key ingredient in the chemical treatment is gamma-valerolactone, a ring-shaped molecule that incorporates an oxygen in its ring. On its own, this seems to be able to loosen up the cellulose and make it more accessible for chemical reactions. But it doesn't break it down into the individual sugars it's composed of. To do that, the researchers had to add some dilute sulfuric acid along with a bit of water (20 percent of the final solution) to keep everything in solution.
 
Essentially, that mixture gets sent into a heated reaction chamber stuffed with any kind of plant matter, the authors tested corn stalks after the corn had been harvested, as well as poplar and maple. If the solution is allowed to flow slowly through the reaction chamber, then it will completely break the plant material down into a mixture of sugars. The only solid material that's left is a small bit of particulate debris.
 
When the resulting sugar-rich solution comes out of the far end of the chamber, mixing it with a solution of table salt is enough to extract almost all of the sugar into a water solution. That solution can then be fed to yeast, which will convert it to ethanol. The remaining organic compounds stay in the organic phase. The gamma-valerolactone can then be pulled out of the organic solution and reused; the rest can be used as a chemical feedstock for other reactions, including the synthesis of gamma-valerolactone.

Tags: treesplantsnatureenvironmentbiofuelenergycarbon

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+2
A very promising process to create biofuels. If it can be made efficient and cost effective this could solve some of the most important issues we have at present
3 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+0
Yes, it seems that this could be cost effective. They estimate that the ethanol produced by this process will be competitive as a fuel at a cost of just under $5.00. That's competitive with the enzymatic breakdown of plant material, which also liberates sugar for ethanol production. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+2
Well, the processes is not yet competitive with either fossil fuels or ethanol produced from the crops themselves. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+0
I found a comment that I fully agree with and this is that "the technology needs one of a few things: a big jump in efficiency, increases in the price of fossil fuels, policy decisions that limit the use of fossil fuels, or policy decisions that limit the amount of crops diverted into fuel production."
Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+1
I think that using cellulose is great idea- there is a lot of it. I found a comment "I'm beginning to think that all of evolutionary history is nothing more than a quest to digest cellulose efficiently" and I agree. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+0
There was a report that scientists in France have discovered how to create great amount of the hydrogen that can propels rockets and energizes fuel cells. They claimed that in a few decades, it could even help the world meet key energy needs. Their recipe was to use a microscopic high-pressure cooker called a diamond anvil cell and ingredients: aluminum oxide, water, and the mineral olivine. Could this work Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+1
Recently there was a serious attempt to reintroduce nuclear energy at a large scale. This is a proposition that urges a crucial discussion on the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change.
3 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+0
Environmentalists agree that global warming is a threat to ecosystems and humans, but many oppose nuclear power and believe that new forms of renewable energy will be able to power the world within the next few decades. I am not sure that is realistic, we need nuclear power
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-22
+0
Sure. Furthermore, if you decide to build a new nuclear plant today, it won’t be able to deliver energy until ten years later, and will then have to compete for a couple of decades against wind and solar at the much more reduced prices these technologies will have then. Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-06-23
+0
. HOWEVER, Woman B claimed she had never said anytihng to A about my wife spreading the rumors and that she was simply concerned about her. She was sorry, apologized, but understood if my wife didn't trust her as a friend. My wife was hurt, but choose to forgive woman B and move on and attempt to repair things with woman A.The next morning, woman B went to A and told her what my wife had done to her. Woman A was concerned about the accuracy of the information she was getting from B. Woman A asked her again if she was sure that what she had said at the party was true, including the party about my wife telling many different people and maliciously attempting to start the rumors. B said this was all true again, and that my wife was really upset with A and wanted to bring her down with what she said.A week later, my wife tried to talk to woman A to apologize for what was said. Woman A would not even look at my wife. She said she was done with her as a friend. She explained that woman B had come back to her to tell her she had been talking about her AGAIN, and she reiterated about the fact she had been spreading the rumors maliciously and my wife wanted to hurt woman A. None of this was true. Woman A called my wife a slew of fowl language in front of me, in front of dozens of her close friends and in front of many of my wife's friends. She stated that she was lying because woman B had said these things to her twice, and that she wouldn't lie.My wife is woman A's boss. Woman A is letting this effect her work. Woman A has cut off all communication with my wife outside of work. Woman B is now completely avoiding my wife entirely as well as woman B's husband, who is a close friend of mine.My wife forgave them both for what happened. Several weeks has passed. I have a hard time forgiving these people and wanted them to ever be back at our home. They were both very good friends of my wife's and now she feels alone and isolated because her two best friends destroyed their friendship. I even lost a close friend. The collateral damage goes very deep, since these were mutual friends of almost everyone we know.My wife wants me to move on, but I have such a hard time with that. My wife was trying to do the biblically accurate thing to hold a fellow sister in christ accountable and her other sister in christ; who was not a new christian, but a strong one, threw it in her face. She broke her trust not once, but twice.I just think she doesn't need to be friends with these people if this is how they treat their relationships. I don't feel comfortable having them around my home if this is what they choose to do.What do you think? Reply


 

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