Wood premier source for ethanol


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New York State University engineers have developed a biorefinery concept based on wood processing into usable ethanol as fuel. Hardwood contains indeed 35% xylan (9 to 14% for soft wood), a simple sugar polymer from which it is possible to produce ethanol by fermentation. The method developed by Thomas Starch and colleagues is: ordinary wood chips are mixed with water and heated to a high temperature to separate the cellulose fibers. The remaining solution is then filtered through a membrane which retains the famous xylan and a minor amount of acetic acid, which is used for the vinyl acetate synthesis. The residue can be burned or gasified to produce electricity and heat. The advantages of the method are related to the raw material used. Wood is easier to transport and store than other sources of biomass (eg cereals), and it can be used all year. According to researchers, by adding biorefineries to American paper mills could produce 9 billion liters of ethanol per year. Their work, still experimental, is financially supported by companies Lyonsdale Biomass and International Paper, the first paper manufacturer in the world. (Will wood help fill US energy needs)

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