Diane Pham

U.S. Department of Energy Announces New Biofuel for the Replacement of Gasoline

by , 03/09/11
filed under: Renewable Energy

 US Department of Energy, DOE, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Department BioEnergy Science Center, isobutanol, Clostridium celluloyticum, bioplastic, green fuel, bio fuel, green gas, eco gas

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just announced a breakthrough discovery in the world of biofuels. Led by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the research team headed up by the Department’s BioEnergy Science Center has developed a cost effective method for converting woody plants straight into isobutanol, which can be used in conventional car engines like gasoline. The new discovery will not only provide a feasible and important alternative to oil, but have potential to create a considerable amount of new jobs in rural parts of the country.

Non-edible woody plant matter is the focus material for the biofuel endeavor, and scientists have been on the hunt for a cost effective way to break down the cellulose to obtain the soft innards which could be used for fuel. Scientists have now pinpointed a microbe, the Clostridium celluloyticum, able to process the cellulose. The same microbes have also been proven effective in cleaning up polluted sites, powering fuel cells, and even transforming wastewater into bioplastic. The new super microbe is also able to break down plant matter and produce isobutanol in one relatively inexpensive step, as compared to conventional biofuel production which requires a multi-stage process using various microbes that complete different functions.

In his announcement Chu also pointed out that biofuel production has the potential to create new jobs in rural parts of the country by putting more farmland into production. But it is worth noting that the DOE’s new isobutanol process does not necessarily rely on new agricultural – apart from cultivated biofuel crops, the mircrobes can also process woody waste from other crops including wheat and rice straw, corn stover, and lumber waste. It is the handling, transporting and refining of the wate that could potentially generate new jobs.

Via Cleantechnia

Photo: ©jurvetson

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6 Comments

  1. cp4avoice March 14, 2011 at 1:01 am

    If a simple process like this can be used on the farm or at the storage bins using the waste products of crops, we could use the locally made fuel to run the big farm equipment on site or in that local area. This process would save the farmers fuel and the carbon used for transportation of fuel. Long live the farmers of the world!

  2. CReinard March 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    How much woody pulp is needed to create a gallon of isobutanol? Will it crowd out edible feedstock for airable land? Will it create more pollution, particularly NOx pollution, as a result of the supply chain logistics and chemical proceses?

    I think its great that DOE is undertaking these sorts of projects and I think every breakthrough is a step in the right direction. However, we have to remember its not just about replacing gasoline; its about replacing gasoline with something that solves the problems associated with fossile fuels both in production and consumption.

  3. millencolinf2f March 9, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Is it clean when burned by a car?

  4. antkm1 March 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Now if we could only include Garbage and other bio-waste to that equation. Then we’d have our “Mr. Fusion” like I’ve always dreamed of, since 1985.

  5. Theresa Gredig March 9, 2011 at 10:57 am

    What a great use for landscape maintenance waste created in our municipalities.

  6. caeman March 9, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Bring it on! America needs energy independence!

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