New Method for Efficient Biofuel Production from Plant Matter

New Method for Efficient Biofuel Production from Plant Matter

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Biofuel is nice but inefficient to produce, making prices higher than many are willing to pay. But now, one research team has proven there’s a better way to produce better fuel.


A team of researchers from the University of California has developed a patent-pending method called “Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation” (CELF), which allows for a more efficient processing of raw agricultural and forestry residue into biofuels. The new method brings researchers another step closer to figuring out how to produce viable biofuels at lower costs.


“Real estate is about location, location, location,” said lead researcher Professor Charles E. Wyman. “Successful commercialization of biofuels technology is about yield, yield, yield, and we obtained great yields with this novel technology.”


140804134302-large-300x199By taking the plant matter, or the lignocellulosic biomass, the researchers use tetrahydrofuran (THF) as a solvent to breakdown the feedstocks, producing high-yields of primary and secondary fuels precursors that can be converted into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuels. Even better, the fuels are “drop-ins,” which means they can be used without changing current vehicle engine infrastructure.

The process combines multiple steps previously used to make biofuel into one, saving heat and energy.


The proof of the process was published in Green Chemistry, and the study said scientists effectively used maple wood to produce furfural and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF), two fuel precursors.


Using the combination of the “CELF” method with iron chloride to break down the maple wood, the team obtained yields of 95 percent of the theoretical maximum for furfural, and 51 percent for 5-HMF.


In layman’s terms, they did about 50 percent better than any commercial technologies out there, bringing us closer cleaner, greener, and cheaper biofuel.



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FEATURED PHOTO: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr


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