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RESEARCH: Optimisation of bioethanol yield from OSR

17 December 2010

Harper Adams Postgraduate Researcher, Anil Mathew, is investigating the optimisation of bioethanol yield from oilseed rape straw.

Bioethanol is an alternative fuel that can be used as an alternative to conventional gasoline or petrol.

The main feedstock for commercial bioethanol production is currently from sugar cane (Brazil) and maize (US) but the ethanol produced by using these feedstocks has limitations in achieving higher targets. There is also the issue of using food crops for fuel production as the issue of global population increases hightens.

Second generation bioethanol can be produced from agri-wastes such as straw and wood but production of it from these materials requires additional processing steps compared to that from starch crops.

These additional processing steps, referred to as pre-treatment, are needed to extract the sugar monomers from the lignocellulosic material. Several of these exist including steam explosion, dilute acid pre-treatment and wet oxidation.

Following pre-treatment and hydrolysis, the sugars extracted from cellulose and hemicellulose materials can be converted to ethanol through microbial fermentation.

This project will compare pre-treatment techniques for extracting reducible sugars from oilseed rape straw to identify the most appropriate extraction method.

It will also identify the most appropriate cell immobilisation matrix for the production of bioethanol from extracted sugars in batch and continuous mode.

It is hoped to identify optimum operating parameters such as flow rate, temperature, pH and concentration of immobilised cells. This will enable the maximum possible bioethanol yield to be quantified.

Finally, the research will develop mathematical models enabling bioethanol yield from OSR straw.

Watch this video to hear more from Anil.

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