A Different Route to Corn-Based Fuel
by Matthew L. Wald (New York Times) Jack Huttner, the executive vice president of Gevo, a five-year old company in Englewood, Colo., would like to take over an ethanol plant and, using the same base ingredients that go into corn-based ethanol – corn and natural gas for fuel – manufacture a different molecule: isobutanol.
…Isobutanol is something many car drivers have never heard of, but it is familiar to refineries that make gasoline, and they can turn it into ingredients that make up as much as 16 percent of the gallon. And while ethanol has only about two-thirds as much energy per gallon as unleaded regular gas, isobutanol is almost equal to gasoline in miles per gallon, Mr. Huttner said.And isobutanol can substitute for petroleum in other ways; it can also be used in solvents, coatings, paints and chemicals used in plastics.
… Six carbon sugars come from food crops. But researchers around the world are trying to unlock the sugars in cellulose, including the nonfood parts of crops, like corn cobs, as well as wood chips and even paper garbage. Some of that sugar is five-carbon sugar, which Mr. Huttner said his yeast will eat and convert. A key part of the company’s technology is patented genes in the yeast. READ MORE