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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.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

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.


 
08/29/2014

New tool from FEMA helps facility managers prepare for and mitigate the effects of nonstructural earthquake damage. 

08/28/2014

Is your building's exterior prepared for consistent snowstorms?

08/27/2014

Researchers have developed wearable, customizable technology to handle access control at busy hotels. 

08/26/2014

A new study shows that hotels which are LEED certified bring in more revenue than their non-certified competitors. 

08/25/2014

Policies designed to reduce carbon emissions have the added benefit of increasing air quality, which could pay for the reduction policies themselves. 

08/22/2014

Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a luminescent solar concentrator that is as transparent as glass. 

08/21/2014

The Department of Energy has released two reports which indicate wind turbine installations and efficiency is growing while prices drop. 

08/20/2014

The NHL has partnered with the NRDC to release their first sustainability report. 

08/19/2014

A new battery has been developed that is free of toxic materials and longer lasting than its more expensive competitors.

08/14/2014

A new study shows that emergency communications that don't specify the threat could be doing more harm than good.

08/13/2014

Natural light's benefits to workers extend far beyond the workday.

08/12/2014

Will a "Little Box" change the future of electricity?

08/07/2014

Could your building withstand an F3 tornado repeatedly?

08/06/2014

Make sure your conference room is properly outfitted with a projection system that meets your occupants' needs.

08/04/2014

The update to the Building Energy Quotient program includes more building types and a new methodology to measure "In Operation" buildings.

07/31/2014

Improper lockdown security may leave your building and occupants vulnerable

07/29/2014

Is the American energy policy lagging behind the rest of the world?

07/22/2014

How to keep building occupants safe during the hot season.

07/21/2014

Spaces grow denser as the industry emerges from a slump.

07/18/2014

Study ranks states on fuel and consumption.

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