Professor Michikazu Hara, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, has created an inexpensive substance, which can boost the efficiency of ethanol production. Reportedly, the costs of producing bio-ethanol from rice straw and other nonfood crops can be cut by more than 30%.
Hara says the special catalyst he created is able to break down plant-based material and produce sugar (one component of bio-ethanol), when you mix it with water and heat it up to 100°C. The catalyst is made of carbon material. Multiple molecules are attached to its surface, which accelerates the decomposition of plant cellulose.
Hara claims the catalyst can be made cheaply, so that his method of ethanol production is as cost effective as deriving ethanol from corn and other foods.
Via Nikkei [registration required, paid subscription]