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Crop Biotech Update

New Biofuel Conversion Process Tracked by Scientists

November 14, 2012

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin have streamlined the process to convert lignocellulosic biomass into high-demand chemicals or energy-dense liquid transportation fuel. The new method eliminates the need for costly pretreatment steps that separate hemicellulose and cellulose, two main components of plant biomass that react at different rates. Pretreatment and extraction or separation steps can account for up to 30 percent of the total capital cost of a biofuels production plant.

The organic compound gamma-valerolactone (GVL) is the key substance that enables the researchers to simultaneously process hemicellulose and cellulose, which have significantly different physical and chemical properties. GVL broadens the optimal conditions for separately processing hemicellulose and cellulose. As a result, those optimal conditions overlap, enabling the scientists to process both — with high yields — under the same conditions. Hemicellulose will then be converted to furfural and cellulose to levulinic acid in a single reactor.

For more information, view the University of Wisconsin-Madison's news release at http://www.news.wisc.edu/21256.