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Tokyo Researchers Develop Easy Way to Pre-Treat Cellulose for Ethanol Production

The Nikkei reports that researchers at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have developed a simple way to dissolve cellulose, making it much easier to utilize wood scrap, weeds and other forms of biomass as raw materials for the synthesis of bioethanol.

The new procedure uses a specially formulated ionic liquid to dissolve the cellulose. It is then recovered by adding water since the two do not mix, and the cellulose separates out as a gel.

The university group developed an ionic liquid than can completely dissolve the cellulose in paper. A 10% solution of cellulose can be obtained by warming the liquid to 45° C and stirring paper in it for 30 minutes. The process goes faster at higher temperatures and a low-concentration solution of cellulose can be made even at room temperature.

The university group envisions a more efficient and low-energy method for cellulosic ethanol production that adds enzymes to the ionic liquid to decompose the dissolved cellulose into sugars in a one-step process.

Comments

rick

This should have made the main page. Could be HUGE.

sjc

This sound cheaper and more biofriendly than acid or enzymes. It may also have a faster throughput than the other methods.

John Schreiber

I agree, sounds like a MAJOR breakthrough.

NIRMALSINH WALA

TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM POLLUTION ALL COUNTRIES SHOULD UNITE TO PUT THIS PROCESS TO COMMERCIAL USE WITHIN 6 MONTHS.

Neil

Hang on guys. If I read the article correctly it only states that they have found a cheap way to dissolve the cellulose. I don't see it talking about breaking the cellulose down into monomers. If I'm reading this right then we have a better step one, but we still need enzymes and/or high temperatures to break down the actual cellulose.

SJC

Ah..ok, then it takes the place of the steam explosion step..thought it was too good to be true for the whole thing.

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