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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.

Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com

 
11/26/2014

Survey shows green initiatives pay off in hiring as well as energy.

11/25/2014

More executives choosing alternatives to LEED.

11/24/2014

EPA challenge to increase diversion rates for the holidays.

11/21/2014

Framework allows users a better look at roofing's environmental impact.

11/20/2014

Study finds paper towel dispensers carry far fewer germs.

11/19/2014

Tool will help manage information during power outages.

11/18/2014

Requirements include energy, IEQ, and sustainability updates.

11/17/2014

Group of 17 properties earn energy efficiency designation.

11/14/2014

Water conservation efforts see results.

11/13/2014

Study shows sustainable investments weather the winter.

11/12/2014

Standard focuses on occupant health.

11/11/2014

EPA says cleanup will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

11/10/2014

Methane will be used as a fuel source.

11/07/2014

ASTM to target roofing material diversion rates. 

11/06/2014

ORNL scientists look to the future of renewable energy integration.

11/05/2014

Lawsuits unlikely to convince polluters to change opposition to legislative reform. 

11/04/2014

Green building investment jumps in 2013. 

11/03/2014

Study shows difference between reported and measured occupant behavior

10/31/2014

Report shows energy modeling as key to improving building performance

10/30/2014

Report shows healthy features and practices yield results.

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