Going Green

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cellulosic Ethanol

Cellulosic ethanol is the next step in ethanol production. It would get us away from dependence on corn and other food crops for ethanol production. This article from Wired is a good introduction.

One Molecule Could Cure Our Addiction to Oil

By Evan Ratliff 09.24.07 2:00 PM

The Chemistry

On a blackboard, it looks so simple: Take a plant and extract the cellulose. Add some enzymes and convert the cellulose molecules into sugars. Ferment the sugar into alcohol. Then distill the alcohol into fuel. One, two, three, four — and we're powering our cars with lawn cuttings, wood chips, and prairie grasses instead of Middle East oil.

Unfortunately, passing chemistry class doesn't mean acing economics. Scientists have long known how to turn trees into ethanol, but doing it profitably is another matter. We can run our cars on lawn cuttings today; we just can't do it at a price people are willing to pay.

The problem is cellulose. Found in plant cell walls, it's the most abundant naturally occurring organic molecule on the planet, a potentially limitless source of energy. But it's a tough molecule to break down. Bacteria...(complete article here).

The article is lengthy but a good primer on cellulosic ethanol production.


bigwhitehat said...

Moonshiners have been using cane sugar for years. It is cheaper than corn emulsion.

Sort of makes you wonder about our current course toward ethanol.

The fella that wrote that is right on the money though. Cheap ethanol could help a bunch. It is sort of stupid that we make high grade race car fuel and mix it with gasoline.

When I consider how well a cheap ethanol would work in small motors, it definitely gets me interested.

Think about it. We could make alcohol and diesel way cheaper than we do.

Panhandle Poet said...

A still in every barn....