New Catalyst Lowers Cost of Making Cellulosic Ethanol by 30%

A professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology claims to have developed a catalyst that can cut the cost of making non-food based cellulosic ethanol — “celluline,” as I like to call it — by 30%.


Just for grits and shiggles, let’s say that when celluline’s finally produced in commercial amounts it will cost consumers $3.00 per gallon. If the cost savings associated with this catalyst were passed on to consumers, that would mean the same celluline would cost $2.10 per gallon.

Professor Michikazu Hara says the carbon-based catalyst can be made cheaply, and works by breaking down cellulose and creating sugar when mixed with water and heated to 100° C. Using the current celluline production methods, this step in the process uses a large amount of energy, time and chemicals.

Although more information on this new catalyst is scarce due to my inability to read Japanese and lack of peer-reviewed papers to this point, it seems that his work has focused on turning woody material into sugars using sulfonated carbon.

If professor Hara has accomplished what he claims, this would mark a major development in second generation ethanol production.

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Source: Crunchgear (via Biofuels Digest)

Image Credit: from i am jae‘s Flickr photostream. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.