Biotech Updates

"Bio-Syntrolysis": Electrolysis-Enhanced Production of Liquid Fuels from Biomass

September 11, 2009

The production of liquid fuels from biomass basically involves a two step process of (1) biomass gasification, which is the thermal treatment of the biomass to convert it into "synthesis gas" (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen), followed by (2) catalytic chemical conversion of the synthesis gas, into a liquid hydrocarbon mixture ("synthetic biofuel"). Scientists from Idaho National Laboratory (INL) (United States) introduced an innovative, thermo-electrolytic step to the basic production process, and called it "Bio-Syntrolysis". Basically, a high temperature electrolytic process (also reported to be biomass-powered) generates oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen is channeled into the gasification process to aid in the thermal gasification reaction of the biomass, while the hydrogen is added as supplement to the hydrogen-deficient synthesis-gas mixture. The hydrogen-supplemented synthesis gas then goes through the second step - liquid fuel production process. According to the INL technical bulletin, Biosyntrolysis converts 90% of the biomass carbon into biofuels, in contrast to the cellulose ethanol process (biomass pretreatment plus fermentation) which converts only 35% of the biomass carbon into biofuels..