Researchers Develop Process that Produces Three Products from a Common Biomass

Technologies for converting biomass into chemicals and fuels traditionally made from petroleum exist. However, they are still more expensive than the petroleum-based production pipeline of these same chemicals.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison try to level the playing field by developing a new process for obtaining three high-value products from the same biomass in one step. Their new process tripled the fraction of biomass converted to high-value products to nearly 80 percent, also tripling the expected rate of return for an investment in the technology.

The key for this process of turning all three components: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, of lignocellulosic biomass into high-value products is gamma valerolactone(GVL), a solvent derived from plant material and has several highly appealing properties. GVL is very effective at fractionating the biomass, allowing the use of all three fractions of biomass and minimizing waste. GVL is also much more stable than other solvents, allowing solvent recycling.

Several industry sectors may benefit from the new technology, including pulp and paper mills, and car manufacturers.


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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