Masahiro Hirama, Ph.D.
ARTICLE #2 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Converting biomass directly into electricity
Energy & Fuels
Sticker-shock gasoline prices have sharpened public awareness that switch grass, cornstalks and other plant matter is the most economical raw material for making ethanol, which can be mixed with gasoline. Now a study scheduled for the July 19 issue of ACS Energy & Fuels reports that cornstalks can be an alternative source of electricity.
Logan and colleagues focused on corn stalks, or corn stover, which is the biggest waste biomass resource in the United States. An estimated 250 million tons of corn stover is produced annually. About 90 percent of it is left unused in farm fields after the harvest.
The research demonstrated that using corn stalks treated with a process termed "steam explosion" converts the cellulose into fuel for microbial fuel cells (MFCs). Electrochemically active bacteria in MFCs generate electricity by oxidizing the treated cornstalks.
"Most people have suddenly learned that ethanol can be made from corn stalks," said Bruce E. Logan, who headed the study. "We show here that you can use bacteria to make electricity from this material [corn stalks], which is an alternative to ethanol. Coupled with our other work, it should also be possible to make hydrogen from this material as well in a slightly modified process."
"Electricity Production From Steam-Exploded Corn Stover Miomass"
Contact: Michael Woods
American Chemical Society