cellulosic ethanol

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Cellulosic Ethanol

Biofuels are one of the most popular types of renewable energy, especially in Brazil and the U.S., where ethanol is used in millions of flex vehicles (vehicles that run on gas and ethanol). Although they are a type of renewable energy, biofuels are often criticized for their allegedly low energy efficiency and the fact they may create vast monocultures that will be harmful to biodiversity and compete with food crops. In order to make biofuels more environmentally sound, researchers are working to develop second generation ethanol, more commonly referred to as cellulosic ethanol.

Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants. The challenge is find ways to break down cellulosic biomass and convert it into ethanol. Cellulosic biomass is the cell wall of a plant where the sugar that can become fuel is lodged.

Novozymes is a leading company in the field. In 2010 it launched two commercially viable enzymes for cellulosic ethanol. The company announced the two enzymes during a conference in Brazil in March and said they can be applied to a wide range of feedstocks.

In order to foment research in the field, Brazil, a major ethanol player, opened a research laboratory dedicated to cellulosic ethanol. Because most ethanol in the country comes from sugarcane, the research there is focused on bagasse, the residue of sugarcane. The use of cellulosic ethanol is starting to happen on a mass scale. In October 2010 an E5 blend of 95% gasoline and 5% cellulosic ethanol premiered at 100 filling stations in Denmark. The ethanol comes from wheat straw collected on Danish fields. It is produced by DONG Inbicon Novozymes’ enzyme technology.