Biotech Updates

Bioconversion of Miscanthus Grass to Biofuel Hydrogen

June 18, 2009  

Scientists from the Agrotechnology and Food Sciences Group of Wageningen University (Netherlands) report the production of hydrogen from the perennial grass, Miscanthus giganteus. Hydrogen is considered one of the clean biofuels of the future, and research is actively being pursued to make the technology cost-effective. In their study, the researchers subjected Miscanthus grass to alkali pretreatment to liberate the celluloses and hemicelluloses in the biomass from the tight lignin wrapping, followed by enzymatic saccharification to convert  liberated cellulose/hemicellulose molecules into simple sugars. The sugars were converted to hydrogen gas by thermophilic anaerobic fermentation (70oC to 80oC) by a mixed culture of Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus and Thermotoga neapolitana. Results showed that the microorganisms "simultaneously and completely utlized the major sugars (pentoses, hexoses) in the hydrolyzate". The hydrogen production yields were 74% to 85% of the theoretical. The complete results of the study can be accessed at the Biotechnology for Biofuels (online open access journal) website (URL above).