Researchers study microbes to develop cellulosic ethanol

By | July 08, 2009
In an effort to eliminate the food versus fuel debate, researchers are experimenting with microscopic organisms to convert sugars from cellulosic materials into ethanol.

Researchers are working with alternate biomasses, especially lignocellulosic feedstocks such as corn stover, for microorganisms to ferment into ethanol, said Tim Donohue, professor of bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and director of the U.S. DOE's Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The research has demonstrated that it works, however, he said, the challenge is unlocking those sugars from the cellulosic biomass. In order to accomplish that, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists are conducting tests on poplar trees, which are more likely to give up their sugars than other biomass sources.