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Release of sugars from lignocellulosic biomass by microwave plasma (Micrograss)
Start date: Jan 1, 2010, End date: Jan 31, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Biofuels for transport are considered to be the answer decreasing green house gas emissions, to enhance energy security and respond to rising oil prices by substituting or blending petrol and diesel with biofuels and to contribute to regional development by increasing employment opportunities and diversifying activities for farmer through energy crops. The EU only produces 4.1 % of the total world ethanol, the US has become in recent years the biggest ethanol producer in the world with 48% of the world total and more than two fifths of the global fuel ethanol supply was produced in Brazil in 2006. The major different types of biofuels are between first and second generation biofuels. First generation biofuels are made from food crop feed stocks while second generation biofuels are made from cellulosic biomass. The primary pathway for producing bioethanol fuels from lignocellulosci biomass is biochemical conversion (acid hydrolysis which is an expensive procedure and produce low yields 10 to 40% and enzymatic hydrolysis but unfortunately cellulose is difficult to digest, produce low yields <20% and take 2 days, in addition although research is continuously improving this process, at present biochemical conversion is not been proven at industrial scale). The project concept involves development of a multipurpose prototype for the reaction of various types of cellulosic biomass on a continuous or batched basis using microwave plasma or combined microwave plasma and chemical/enzyme hydrolysis. This technology will breakdown the cellulose molecule structures and allow an efficient (90% yield efficiency) and rapid release of the sugars for the fermentation reaction (<1/2 day). In addition, by using microwave plasma we will use 10 times less energy, chemicals, infrastructure accessories and solvents making the conversion of cellulosic biomass into bio-ethanol an economical procedure.
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