NREL Develops New Method to Better Understand Ethanol Production

Bookmark and Share

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Bioenergy Technologies Office


February 05, 2021

NREL Develops New Method to Better Understand Ethanol Production

Researcher using flask

An NREL researcher observes enzymes breaking down cellulose into glucose. Photo credit: Pat Corkery / NREL

The U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office funded researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to address a significant challenge facing the ethanol industry. It is difficult to precisely and accurately quantify the amount of starch-derived versus cellulose-derived glucose used in ethanol production. A new method resulting from this research will enable ethanol biorefineries to better understand what fraction of their ethanol is derived from starch versus cellulose, to best maximize financial returns through advanced renewable credits and enhanced yield.

Researchers developed a simple yet highly selective process to determine cellulosic glucan content. This method, which includes the removal of starch prior to quantifying the cellulosic content, eliminates the errors inherent in the methods in use today. This selectivity for cellulosic glucan was validated with several analytical techniques including:

  • Liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance.

Read more about this research in Cellulose.