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07/10/2012

Biofuel Process Produces Energy More Than 20 Times Higher Than Existing Methods

 
A new process discovered by researchers at Michigan State University may unlock the potential of cheap biofuel.

Are biofuels the emerging energy source of choice?  A new biofuel production process created by Michigan State University researchers produces energy more than 20 times higher than existing methods.  A process like this one could drastically reduce energy costs for a variety of industries.

The results, published in the current issue of Environmental Science and Technology, highlight an innovative way to use microbes to produce biofuel and hydrogen while consuming agricultural wastes.

Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist, has developed bioelectrochemical systems known as microbial electrolysis cells, or MECs, using bacteria to breakdown and ferment agricultural waste into ethanol.

Reguera’s platform is unique because it employs a second bacterium, which, when added to the mix, removes all the waste fermentation byproducts or nonethanol materials while generating electricity.

Similar microbial fuel cells have been investigated before. However, maximum energy recoveries from corn stover, a common feedstock for biofuels, hover around 3.5%. Reguera’s platform, despite the energy invested in chemical pretreatment of the corn stover, averaged 35 to 40% energy recovery just from the fermentation process, said Reguera, an AgBioResearch scientist who co-authored the paper with Allison Spears, MSU graduate student.

“This is because the fermentative bacterium was carefully selected to degrade and ferment agricultural wastes into ethanol efficiently and to produce byproducts that could be metabolized by the electricity-producing bacterium,” Reguera says. “By removing the waste products of fermentation, the growth and metabolism of the fermentative bacterium also was stimulated. Basically, each step we take is custom-designed to be optimal.”

The second bacterium, Geobacter sulfurreducens, generates electricity. The electricity, however, isn’t harvested as an output. It is used to generate hydrogen in the MEC to increase the energy recovery process even more, Reguera says.

“When the MEC generates hydrogen, it actually doubles the energy recoveries,” she says. “We increased energy recovery to 73%.  So the potential is definitely there to make this platform attractive for processing agricultural wastes.”

Reguera’s fuel cells use corn stover treated by the ammonia fiber expansion process, an advanced pretreatment technology pioneered at MSU. AFEX is an already proven method that was developed by Bruce Dale, MSU professor of chemical engineering and materials science.

Dale is currently working to make AFEX viable on a commercial scale.

In a similar vein, Reguera is continuing to optimize her MECs so they, too, can be scaled up on a commercial basis. Her goal is to develop decentralized systems that can help process agricultural wastes. Decentralized systems could be customized at small to medium scales (scales such as compost bins and small silages, for example) to provide an attractive method to recycle the wastes while generating fuel for farms.

 


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating’s new H2i R2-Series heat pumps provide year-round comfort, even in extreme climates. With 100% heating capacity down to 0° F outdoor ambient and simultaneous heating and cooling down to -4° F, our hyper-heating systems bring highly responsive multi-zone comfort to your projects, regardless of climate zone.

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03/30/2015

New technology driving increased demand on healthcare systems.

03/27/2015

Capital ranks #1 in certified buildings.

03/26/2015

New sensor cable technology can detect all types of security breaches.

03/25/2015

Facilities will help cut government GHG emissions by 40%.

03/24/2015

Building sustainability shown to improve tenant happiness.

03/23/2015

New technology to improve the efficiency of wind power systems.

03/20/2015

Reduction of storm activity due to climate change will increase extreme weather.

03/19/2015

Simple ventilation improvements could save over $20,000 per year.

03/18/2015

Efforts to minimize climate change may be more effective than previously thought.

03/17/2015

Researchers develop new approach to create renewable energy.

03/16/2015

Report shows wind becoming cost competitive in more states.

03/13/2015

Study shows “fragrances” may be more than they appear.

03/12/2015

New energy storage configurations could cut costs.

03/11/2015

Program will streamline certification processes, code familiarity.

03/06/2015

Study shows buildings such as hospitals could cut energy use.

03/05/2015

Small and medium-sized buildings will soon have automation options.

03/04/2015

Form will aid lenders in assessing value of sustainable design.

03/03/2015

Expanded choices offer climate-friendly solutions.

03/02/2015

New technology could slash consumption up to 30%.

02/27/2015

Design is low-cost and green while providing more energy storage.

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