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Researchers Devise New Process to Improve Cost- and Energy-Efficiency of Corn Ethanol Production

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have devised a new process that can improve the efficiency of corn-based ethanol production using advanced process design methods combined with mathematical optimization techniques.

The core of the Carnegie Mellon strategy is redesigning the distillation process by using a multi-column system together with a network for energy recovery that ultimately reduces the consumption of steam, a major energy component in the production of corn-based ethanol.

This new design reduces the manufacturing cost for producing ethanol by 11 percent, from $1.61 a gallon to $1.43 a gallon. This research also is an important step in making the production of ethanol more energy efficient and economical.

—Ignacio E. Grossmann, professor of chemical engineering, CMU

The research was conducted through the Chemical Engineering Department’s Center of Advanced Process Decision-making (CAPD) in collaboration with Minneapolis-based Cargill, an international provider of food, agricultural and risk management services and products.

...we decided to collaborate with Professor Grossmann’s team to verify how process synthesis tools could be applied to improve the production of ethanol from corn. The work done at Carnegie Mellon demonstrated the potential for considerable capital and energy cost savings in the corn to ethanol process. We look forward to the time when the tools developed by Carnegie Mellon researchers will become part of industry’s new toolkit for making the process even more economical and sustainable.

—Luca C. Zullo, technical director of Cargill Emissions Reduction Services

The US ethanol industry produced more than 5 billion gallons in 2006.


Roger Pham

Get real, folks! By the middle of this century, the world will have 9 billions people!!! who would rather eat corn and drink whiskey rather than drive their vehicles with it.
The price of corn will be so high that...Oh, hey, more whiskey for ...Oh, never mind.


so then its time to loose some weight fatty us
americans !
(and mexicans ... its terrible how many fat womens exist in mexico)


There won't be 9 billion people if we allocate a lot of food for fuel. If the food's not there the population won't grow.

Even if we don't expand the use of corn ethanol this is still good news as it reduces the energy inputs. I wonder if some of these methods could be applied to cellulose ethanol production.


"If the food's not there the population won't grow."

Actually, as has been evident in most underdeveloped and developing countries for the last 5000 years, populations will always grow, even though there is no food. In fact, chances are it will grow faster in those nations, due to the poverty level and lack of education.

But aside from that, this is great news as you said, as it makes it that much more cost-effective to produce corn ethanol. A great step forward in my opinion.

Thomas Lankester

Er. Maybe I missed something but this article talks about reduced energy use in the ethanol distillation. That is a step that applies to all bio-ethanol production surely. If so, then this is good news and talk about food vs. fuel may be missing the point.

Here is a quote that Marie Antoinette did not say:
"let them eat stubble"

fyi CO2

Affordable, due to direct subsidies. Even if you completely disregard the reduction in food supply, degradation of topsoil & aquifers, corn ethanol is slightly over twice the cost of regular unleaded gasoline on a BTU equivalent basis.

fyi CO2

Thanks to $75b conglom Cargill for their "collaboration". Does this mean they're concentrating now only on the aura of ethanol and rushing GMOs to market, and no longer using forced labor for cocoa in Africa, marketing Uzbek cotton, or destroying Amazon forest for soya?


Lets not forget the panic when the oil industry had a so called loss of production after Katrina. That was a small disaster. Atleast now we will be able to produce our own fuel as little as it may be.I am building a small plant that will produce 150 gph on my farm. The main thing I have been focussing on is Independence. Please excuse the spelling

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