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Louisiana tech researchers use nanotechnology in biofuel process to save money and the environment.

In Brief: James Palmer, associate professor of chemical engineering at Louisiana Tech University, is collaborating with fellow professors Yuri Lvov, Dale Snow, and Hisham Hegab to capitalize on the environmental and financial benefits of biofuels by using nanotechnology to further improve the cellulosic ethanol process.

Biofuels will play an important part in sustainable fuel and energy production solutions for the future. The country's appetite for fuel, however, cannot be satisfied with traditional crops such as sugarcane or corn alone. Emerging technologies are allowing cellulosic biomass (wood, grass, stalks, etc.) to also be converted into ethanol.

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Cellulosic ethanol does not compete with food production and has the potential to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 86 percent over that of today's fossil fuels. Current techniques for corn ethanol only reduce greenhouse gases by 19 percent.

The nanotechnology process developed at Louisiana Tech University can immobilize the expensive enzymes used to convert cellulose to sugars, allowing them to be reused several times over, thus significantly reducing the overall cost of the process.

Savings estimates range from approximately $32 million for each cellulosic ethanol plant to a total of $7.5 billion if a federally established goal of 61 L (16 billion gal) of cellulosic ethanol is achieved. This process can easily be applied in large-scale commercial environments and can immobilize a wide variety or mixture of enzymes for production.

For more information contact Dave Guerin, dguerin@latech.edu.
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Title Annotation:update
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:237
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