Barley straw shows potential as transport biofuel raw material

The hemicellulose sugars of barley straw can be effectively fermented into biobutanol, when starch is added during the pre-treatment or fermentation process, shows a new University of Eastern Finland study.

Seeking to find alternatives to ethanol as a fuel, the study established optimal pre-treatment conditions for turning straw lignocellulose and barley starch into fermentable sugars that can be used in the production of biobutanol. The hemicellulose sugars of barley straw (e.g. xylose) released during pre-treatment can be effectively fermented into biobutanol, when starch is added to the fermentation broth. The study found that the cooperation of xylanase and surfactants with cellulase during the hydrolysis of straw significantly increased the efficiency of cellulose utilisation in butanol fermentation. Moreover, the pre-treatment liquor of fresh barley silage was efficiently used for butanol fermentation, indicating the feasibility of utilization of green field biomass preserving by "silage" technique in biorefining processes.

In recent years, global warming and climate change have attracted widespread interest in biorefining and in particular the transport of biofuels production. Butanol as a competitive renewable biofuel is superior to ethanol in many aspects such as higher energy density, lower volatility and hygroscopicity, and less corrosion to existing infrastructure. Importantly, it can be directly used in automobile engines without modification. At present, sugar or starch-based biomass (sugarcane molasses, corn and wheat) are the main feedstocks for butanol production. Climatic and social sustainability of large-scale transport fuels production from these raw materials is under wide-ranging debate. The possible solution for obtaining enough fermentable substrates is the efficient utilization of plentiful lignocellulosic biomass available on earth. Barley has been regarded as a good supplement to corn biofuel production as well as a replacement for the production of biofuels.

The findings were originally published in Bioresource Technology and Chemical Engineering Research and Design.

The doctoral dissertation by Ming Yang, MSc (Agr.&For.), entitled The use of lignocellulosic biomass for fermentative butanol production in biorefining, is available for download at http://www.metla.fi/dissertationes/df202.htm

For further information, please contact:
Researcher Ming Yang, tel.
+358504424511, ming.yang(at)uef.fi

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The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.

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