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Bioethanol from grass, wood and by-products in 5 years

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has recently organized a group of biotechnologists and chemical engineers to conduct scientific investigations in a bid to produce ethanol from so-called 3rd generation biofuel feedstocks.

Leading this group is Dr. Fidel Rey P. Nayve, Jr of UPLB-BIOTECH who has set eyes on producing fuel ethanol from lignocellulosic materials readily available in the Philippines—grass, wood and agricultural by-products.

Rice straw, rice hull, sugarcane bagasse, corn stover corn cobs, and even dried wood, cogon and talahib are jam-packed with lignocellulose, which is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.

Lignocellulose can be fermented to produce ethanol fuel. Meanwhile, dimethyl ether, another by-product of lignocellulose fermentation, is a promising fuel source for diesel and petroleum engines and even gas-powered turbines.

Dr. Nayve recently reported that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCASTRD) will be granting the UPLB scientists P10 M in research funds to develop technologies for cellulosic fuel ethanol production.

According to him, there is a good prospect of having a mature technology within the next five to 10 years. The UPLB-BIOTECH has already in its care several microorganisms which can be used to process grass, wood and agricultural by-products into ethanol.

It is just a matter of identifying which materials can be suitable for ethanol production and developing and optimizing the organisms’ capability to ferment the materials into ethanol.

by S. C.
29 may 2009, Technical Area > Science News

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