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U.S. Department of Energy Announcement: Innovative Technology Counteracts Biofuel's Shortcomings

 Biofuels have been criticized for being expensive and inefficient to produce: Image via venturebeat.comBiofuels have been criticized for being expensive and inefficient to produce: Image via venturebeat.com

Biofuel - a buzz word that has accumulated some controversy regarding just how green it really is once cost and efficiency of production are considered.  However, the U.S. Department of Energy is doing more than just talking about biofuels--they're doing something about those shortcomings.  They've recently announced a breakthrough discovery and just in time, considering the price of gas lately.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the announcement that a research team led by the DOE's Bioenergy Science Center has developed an economical method for converting woody plants directly into isobutanol for use in traditionally gasoline-powered vehicles.

U.S. Department of Energy is doing more than just talking about the shorcomings of bio fuels: They're doing something about it.U.S. Department of Energy is doing more than just talking about the shorcomings of bio fuels: They're doing something about it.

Scientists from the Bioenergy Science Center teamed up with researchers from University of California in effort to develop a new strain of the microbe, Clostridium celluloyticum, which naturally breaks down cellulose.  C. celluloyticum has also been proven effective in cleansing polluted sites, powering fuel cells, as well as transforming wastewater into bioplastic.  Since different species produce different aspects of the process, the new strain combines necessary properties in one microbe.  As a result, plant matter is broken down to produce isobutanol in one considerably simple and cheap step as opposed to the complex process required by traditional biofuel production.

New Technology Makes Biofuel A More Efficient and Economical Alternative to GasNew Technology Makes Biofuel A More Efficient and Economical Alternative to Gas

Not only will this new technology help prevent the wallet-burning gas prices of late, but it will also create new jobs, particularly in rural parts of the country.  Biofuel production will put more unused farmland back into production.  Perhaps most importantly, however, the process used in this new technology does not rely on new agricultural production.  Along with crops specifically grown for biofuel, the new process can use waste from other crops such as that of wheat and rice straw, corn stover, and lumber.  New employment would likely occur in handling, transporting, and refining those wastes.

Clostridium celluloyticum promises to make biofuel production cheaper and more efficient: Image via Inhabitat.comClostridium celluloyticum promises to make biofuel production cheaper and more efficient: Image via Inhabitat.com

Until this development, biofuel production was costly and, ironically, not very energy efficient due to the complex methods previously used to break down the "wood" properties of plant cells.  Fortunately, these microbes do the trick cheaper and more efficiently.  

Sources: Inhabitat and CleanTechnica

Amanda Hinski
Environmental Innovations Blogger
InventorSpot.com

Comments
Mar 9, 2011
by Anonymous

Exciting but over the top

Dude —
You sound like a hired gun. Let's see how it pans out.
More importantly to the industry, you misrepresent it.
"complex process required by traditional biofuel production" — which ones? Some are simple and cheap and very promising.
"biofuel production was costly and, ironically, not very energy efficient " — please. Complex issue with solid system answers does not need this kind of oversimplification.

Mar 10, 2011
by Amanda Hinski
Amanda Hinski's picture

Enlighten me Amanda

Enlighten me

Amanda Hinski

www.inventorspot.com/writers/ahinski