Researcher finds new, cheaper way to produce ethanol fuel from waste

Reducing gasoline dependency has been a hot issue for the developed world for some time now. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been very successful. Alternative fuel sources have been more expensive, or more toxic, to produce than gasoline, so gasoline is still the primary fuel source for many vehicles. New research coming from the University of Central Florida may be changing the game, though, with cheap and environmentally friendly ethanol produced from common organic waste products.

University of Central Florida professor Henry Daniell has developed a groundbreaking way to produce ethanol from waste products such as orange peels and newspapers. His approach is greener and less expensive than the current methods available to run vehicles on cleaner fuel – and his goal is to relegate gasoline to a secondary fuel.

Dr. Daniell’s success involves using a complex mix of organic enzymes to break down starches into sugars, and then ferment that into ethanol. This approach produces less greenhouse gases than corn starch fermentation used to create ethanol now. And since this technique uses waste products, we get a two-for-one benefit! “In Florida alone, discarded orange peels could create about 200 million gallons of ethanol each year, Daniell said.”

Daniell’s work is going even farther, though, trying to produce the necessary enzymes in tobacco plants, rather than synthetic processes. Why tobacco? “It is not a food crop, it produces large amounts of energy per acre and an alternate use could potentially decrease its use for smoking.”

While the research still needs refinement, and actual productization is still a long ways off, this kind of integrated, holistic approach to the problem seems like a big win.

Via EurekAlert!.