Efficient, Cost-effective Ethanol Production

Technology #13138

Consists of Termite Enzymes that can be Utilized in Bioethanol Biorefinery Operations

This procedure for ethanol production uses termite enzymes to more efficiently process biomass, reducing ethanol manufacturing costs. As the need for renewable energy sources becomes more urgent, ethanol production has grown in popularity. However, ethanol’s success has put pressure on food supply and prices as corn is diverted for use in fuel production. Ethanol as it is traditionally produced does not represent a cost savings over fossil fuels and often releases just as much carbon into the environment. To address these problems, the industry has searched for better ways to make ethanol with non-food sources that would otherwise be discarded, such as wood chippings and grass crops. UF researchers discovered that a termite enzyme designed to digest such discarded feedstock also efficiently breaks down the feedstock for ethanol production. This technology will make it possible to use abundant, non-food materials in ethanol production and, through improved efficiency, will also cut manufacturing costs.

Applications

Bioethanol fuel production

Advantages

  • Processes lignocellulose more efficiently, cutting ethanol manufacturing costs and increasing yields
  • Decreases energy input needed, further reducing costs
  • Uses an inexpensive and abundant material, expanding ethanol production potential
  • Solves a technological problem in a growing field, providing a competitive advantage

Technology

As any exterminator can tell you, termites do a fantastic job of degrading wood. UF researchers have found a way to harness some of that power for ethanol production. Lignocellulose, found in wood and in feedstocks that are typically discarded such as grass crops, is hard to break down using traditional methods. Lignins and cellulose trap the sugars the manufacturers ferment to make ethanol. Breaking down these substances frees the sugar so they can be used. The recombinant termite enzymes UF researchers have isolated digest lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. These enzymes can be put to work in bioethanol biorefinery operations for greater efficiency and cost savings.