With all the focus on electric vehicles it can be easy to forget the billions that the government pours into biofuels, and especially corn based ethanol production. Most people prefer the idea of EV’s than using ethanol blended gasoline to fuel their cars, but a new method for ethanol production could increase its popularity.
Researchers at the Michigan State University claim that they can increase the amount of energy recovered during ethanol production by 2000 percent.
Using a fermentation process optimised to recover as much energy as possible from the corn stover. Traditional methods generally get 3.5% to 4.5% of the potential energy from the corn product, but this new bioelectrochemical process uses special microbial electrolysis cells in steps that have been “custom-designed” to be as efficient as possible. The result is that 35% to 40% of the energy is recovered.
The waste products from the procedure are then used to generate hydrogen which helps to further increase the energy produced, up to 73%; a bit of an improvement from the current 4.5%, and one that could revolutionise the whole industry.
The US is currently suffering its worst drought in 100 years, yet if this technique works as well as it claims, the volume of ethanol produced could be higher than ever. Corn farmers could become the largest source of fuel in America.