Cellulosic Ethanol

Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the inedible parts of plants.

It is a type of biofuel produced from lignocellulose, a structural material that comprises much of the mass of plants. Lignocellulose is composed mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Corn stover, Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), Miscanthus grass species, wood chips and the byproducts of lawn and tree maintenance are some of the more popular cellulosic materials for ethanol production. Production of ethanol from lignocellulose has the advantage of abundant and diverse raw material compared to sources such as corn and cane sugars, but requires a greater amount of processing to make the sugar monomers available to the microorganisms typically used to produce ethanol by fermentation.

Switchgrass and Miscanthus are the major biomass materials being studied today, due to their high productivity per acre. Cellulose, however, is contained in nearly every natural, free-growing plant, tree, and bush, in meadows, forests, and fields all over the world without agricultural effort or cost needed to make it grow.

According to U.S. Department of Energy studies conducted by Argonne National Laboratory of the University of Chicago, one of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol is it reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 85% over reformulated gasoline. By contrast, starch ethanol (e.g., from corn), which most frequently uses natural gas to provide energy for the process, may not reduce GHG emissions at all depending on how the starch-based feedstock is produced. According to the National Academy of Sciences, there is no commercially viable bio-refinery in existence to convert lignocellulosic biomass to fuel.

Read more about Cellulosic EthanolHistory, Production Methods, Economics, Environmental Effects: Corn-based Vs. Grass-based, Feedstocks, Cellulosic Ethanol Commercialization

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