Ethanol no image

Published on April 8th, 2008 | by Clayton

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GMO Corn-Stover Eats Itself, Makes Ethanol Processing A Breeze

corn, corn stover, ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, genetics

[social_buttons] Researchers at Michigan State are trying to get corn-stover to digest itself after harvest. Doing so would mitigate the costly pretreatment steps needed for the production of cellulosic ethanol from the non-edible parts of the corn plant.

MSU’s scientists are adding genetic material to the corn’s genome, genes that would normally be responsible for the digestive enzymes produced by fungi and the microbes in cow rumens. The newly transgenic plants store these enzymes in vacuoles in the leaves and stalk in a way that doesn’t affect the plant while it’s alive.

Theoretically, once the corn harvest is over, these plants would already be primed for the first step in their conversion to cellulosic ethanol (I’m making an assumption here): break open the enzyme-containing vacuoles and let “nature” take it’s course.

MSU’s professor of crop and soil science, Mariam Sticklen, commented: “The fact that we can take a gene that makes an enzyme in the stomach of a cow and put it into a plant cell means that we can convert what was junk before into biofuel.”

It’s true that corn stover makes up about half of a corn harvest, and that turning corn stover into into cellulosic ethanol could be a good thing. But it seems like we might have already figured out less complicated (and definitely less controversial) ways of doing this. See the related links for more.

What do you think?

Related Posts:

World’s First Commercially Viable Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Online 2009

Switchgrass Could Displace 30% of US Petroleum Usage With 94% GHG Reduction

First Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Goes Online, Makes Fuel From Wood Waste

Source: Green Car Congress (Apr. 8, 2008): Researchers Modifying Corn With Genes to Produce Enzymes to Enable Simpler Production of Cellulosic Ethanol

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons



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About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.



  • TL

    That corn row picture isn’t from Michigan!

  • TL

    That corn row picture isn’t from Michigan!

  • Greg Currey

    Despite what the author of this article says, the kernel (edible part) of corn is used in the production of ethanol. Using a major food crop for gas is an idiodic solution to the gas problem. Corn is used in almost every feed throughout the world (there’s a reason you’re grocery bill has skyrocketed since this has become a fuel source).

  • Greg Currey

    Despite what the author of this article says, the kernel (edible part) of corn is used in the production of ethanol. Using a major food crop for gas is an idiodic solution to the gas problem. Corn is used in almost every feed throughout the world (there’s a reason you’re grocery bill has skyrocketed since this has become a fuel source).

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Greg,

    You’re right about the kernel being used for ethanol production, but the researchers are trying to turn the rest of the plant into ethanol too.

    Think ethanol is idiotic? Check this out:

    http://gas2.org/2008/04/09/2015-30-of-us-corn-harvest-will-be-gasoline/

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Greg,

    You’re right about the kernel being used for ethanol production, but the researchers are trying to turn the rest of the plant into ethanol too.

    Think ethanol is idiotic? Check this out:

    http://gas2.org/2008/04/09/2015-30-of-us-corn-harvest-will-be-gasoline/

  • Pingback: Green Gasoline? Scientists Produce $1/Gallon Gasoline From Non-Food Plant Material : Gas 2.0()

  • http://informagnet.atwork.to jay

    maybe people could eat themselves too, then we wouldnt have to go anywhere, nor abuse plant genetics and the entire genetic ecosystem to do so.

  • http://informagnet.atwork.to jay

    maybe people could eat themselves too, then we wouldnt have to go anywhere, nor abuse plant genetics and the entire genetic ecosystem to do so.

  • Chris McPhee, MS

    THis appraoch is incredibly elegant, and no to the author’s final question. NO ONE HAS DONE ANYTHING THIS ELEGANT. There are a whole host of patents around the other cellolytic enzymes being used at this point. Some of the companies are jacking the prices for these enzymes so high , it impacts the economic viability of cellulosic ethanol; alternatives are sorely needed.

    As far as seed corn use goes, everyone recognizes the problems with food starch feedstocks. Their use , for now, is acting as an important bridge to enable the devlopment of technologies like this one, which will not need to use foodstuff for fuel.

    Everyone needs to get in touch with the fact that change is difficult, and we may all need to pay more for food and fuel while the alternatives get worked out. Complaining b/c ethanol development costs you a little more at the grocery store and pump is the real “idiocy”, in my humble opinion. Lets be progresive in our thinking and make a plan for the future, so that 50 years from now, a greener society will ahve eveolved.

  • Chris McPhee, MS

    THis appraoch is incredibly elegant, and no to the author’s final question. NO ONE HAS DONE ANYTHING THIS ELEGANT. There are a whole host of patents around the other cellolytic enzymes being used at this point. Some of the companies are jacking the prices for these enzymes so high , it impacts the economic viability of cellulosic ethanol; alternatives are sorely needed.

    As far as seed corn use goes, everyone recognizes the problems with food starch feedstocks. Their use , for now, is acting as an important bridge to enable the devlopment of technologies like this one, which will not need to use foodstuff for fuel.

    Everyone needs to get in touch with the fact that change is difficult, and we may all need to pay more for food and fuel while the alternatives get worked out. Complaining b/c ethanol development costs you a little more at the grocery store and pump is the real “idiocy”, in my humble opinion. Lets be progresive in our thinking and make a plan for the future, so that 50 years from now, a greener society will ahve eveolved.

  • http://thisone me

    Of course if this goes horribly wrong, and the plants begin to digest them selves pre-maturily, and manage to cross pollinate, we may be making a GMO that destroys the world.

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