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A plant biotechnology company in California that uses genomics to create unique plant varieties for conversion to biofuels, is collaborating with The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to develop and commercialise new and advanced biomass crops for ethanol production. Diversa, a San Diego-based enzyme company, has joined with Syngenta to develop ‘enzyme cocktails’ that can rapidly hydrolyse the cellulosic material in corn and corn stover. Also looking for enzymes in the guts of termites in an attempt to capitalise on the insect’s ability to convert wood to energy, Celunol Corporation of Dedham, MA, has genetically engineered micro-organisms which are able to ferment the whole range of sugars resulting from the hydrolysis, thus significantly increasing the efficiency of ethanol production.

Use of dilute acid in steam explosion has been found to improve enzymatic hydrolysis, reduce the production of inhibitory compounds, and lead to more complete removal of hemicellulose. It is possible to recover around 70% of xylose as monomer. Acid catalysed steam explosion is one of the most cost-effective processes for hardwood and agricultural residues, but it is not as effective for softwoods. Limitations include incomplete disruption of the biomass structure, Page 32 © Copyright Pira International Ltd 2007 3 Advances in Bioethanol Production of bioethanol destruction of a portion of the xylan fraction and generation of compounds that may inhibit micro-organism uses in downstream processes.

Lastly, the biomass composition in hemicellulose, cellulose and sugar influences the ethanol yield. 4. 4 Biomass to ethanol process #JPNBTT 1SFUSFBUNFOU )ZESPMZTJT 4UFBN 1PXFS HFOFSBUJPO 'FSNFOUBUJPO 1VSJGJDBUJPO 4PMJE SFTJEVBMT &MFDUSJDJUZ 8BTUF 8BUFS &UIBOPM Source: Based on RFA (2007d); Ladisch (2003); Wyman et al. , 2005a). Page 30 © Copyright Pira International Ltd 2007 Advances in Bioethanol Production of bioethanol 3 Pre-treatment affects the structure of biomass by solubilising hemicellulose, reducing crystallinity and increasing the available surface area and pore volume of the substrate.

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