Using Enzymes from Termites To Make Biofuel from Agricultural Waste

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Bugging out: A pilot scale cellulose to ethanol plant is under construction by ZeaChem and partner Hazen Research in Golden, CO. The plant will soon pump out 250,000 gallons of fuel per year.A U.S. company has come up with a new way of producing biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks, such as agricultural waste: Using enzymes from the guts of termites to more efficiently produce ethanol.

The startup company, ZeaChem, says using the enzymes from the wood-eating insects has achieved ethanol yields in the laboratory 35 percent higher than other producers of cellulosic ethanol, according to MIT Technology Review.

ZeaChem uses acid to break the cellulose into sugars, but instead of fermenting the sugars into ethanol using yeast — as is customarily done — the company feeds the sugars to an acetogen bacteria found in termites. The bacteria turns the sugars into acetic acid, which produces ethanol when combined with hydrogen.

“It’s not the obvious, direct route, but there is a high yield potential,” said an official from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado.

ZeaChem’s CEO said the company has produced 135 gallons of ethanol per ton of cellulosic feedstock.

Article appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360

[photo credit: ZeaChem]

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

1 Comment

  1. João R. Poiate on

    Hello, I am looking for a enzyme to use on waste vegetable oil to make biodiesel, have you this kind enzymes?

    Tks

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