Microbes to Take Over Ethanol Production?

Nov 20, 2009 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Credit: Ben Mills via Wikimedia Commons

(PhysOrg.com) -- Not too long ago, it seemed that ethanol production was the wave of the future. The use of trash, wood chips or different types of plants -- usually grass or corn -- to make ethanol was considered a way to help reduce reliance on foreign oil. However, investor interest in the process cooled, especially since it turned out that some materials were not terribly efficient when it came to producing ethanol. However, wood chips are once again being considered in the quest to create an industry based around cellulosic ethanol.

The company behind the push is ZeaChem. The company wants to use termites (or, rather, the microbes found in their stomachs) in the creation process. CNET News reports on the efforts of ZeaChem to create a new method of :

ZeaChem's process is different from many other companies in that it uses a bacteria called acetogen, which is found in termite stomachs, to break down without the use of enzymes.

The company contracted with Hazen Research to construct the facility, which will be built using different modules that can be transported in truck-size containers, said Imbler. The goal is to have the operation online next year making both ethanol and specialty chemicals, including ethyl acetate.

ZeaChem plans to look to pharmaceutical companies and even oil refiners as partners in the effort to build an ethanol plant on the commercial scale. The hope is that, by showing that this type of ethanol production is scalable and practical, investors will become interested in providing more financing for the project going forward. After all, the company is likely to run through its $34 million in venture capital fairly quickly.

The idea of using to make various chemicals and fuels is not new. Many companies have been working on putting these tiny creatures to work on behalf of mankind. It will be interesting to see whether ZeaChem's process manages to distinguish itself from others, or whether it goes the way of so many other companies using alternative methods to produce ethanol and other chemicals.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Digestive brilliance of breast milk unravelled

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genome sequencing reveals key to viable ethanol production

Mar 02, 2007

As the national push for alternative energy sources heats up, researchers at the University of Rochester have for the first time identified how genes responsible for biomass breakdown are turned on in a microorganism that ...

Researchers advance cellulosic ethanol production

Sep 08, 2008

A team of researchers from Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering and Mascoma Corporation in Lebanon, N.H., have made a discovery that is important for producing large quantities of cellulosic ethanol, a leading candidate ...

Magnets can boost production of ethanol for fuel

Sep 10, 2007

In a finding that could reduce the cost of ethanol fuel, researchers in Brazil report success in using low frequency magnetic waves to significantly boost the amount of ethanol produced through the fermentation of sugar. ...

Chemically squeezing every drop of ethanol from corn

Mar 09, 2006

Brent Shanks is going down to the molecules to find a little extra ethanol. Shanks, an Iowa State University associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, is leading a research team that's working to develop ...

Recommended for you

Scientists find clues to cancer drug failure

Mar 02, 2015

Cancer patients fear the possibility that one day their cells might start rendering many different chemotherapy regimens ineffective. This phenomenon, called multidrug resistance, leads to tumors that defy ...

Oat breakfast cereals may contain a common mold-related toxin

Feb 25, 2015

Oats are often touted for boosting heart health, but scientists warn that the grain and its products might need closer monitoring for potential mold contamination. They report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that s ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Dec 12, 2009
Very nice! Now, if only we can also look into fixing and improving overall fuel efficiency of Ethanol.

It should be pointed out that even the manufacturers of flex-fuel vehicles designed to use E85 and other ethanol-based fuels put it into writing that you can expect up to a 30% decrease in overall fuel efficiency/mileage per gallon.

For those who don't believe it, read the manuals for flex-fuel vehicles very carefully, folks. It's in the "fine print" in some of these manuals.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.