Cost-Effective Biomass Conversion via an Online Carbohydrate Monitoring Device
Biomass is a renewable resource with high potential to achieve cost effective, reliable, and environmentally friendly energy to the American consumer, but yet is still deemed inefficient. First, current methodologies only allow conversion of cellulosic materials into biofuel, leaving energy-rich hemicellulosic material unutilized. Second, even though carbohydrate conversion is the focus of biomass processing, currently there exists no reliable online carbohydrate monitor. As a result, biomass conversion commonly shows 35% relative standard deviation yields batch-to-batch because of variations in raw materials and processing conditions. Here, Advanced MicroLabs (AML) will construct an online carbohydrate proof-of-concept monitoring device, based on a patent-pending microchip capillary electrophoresis coupled with electrochemical detection technology. AML will team with both the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, Golden, CO) and the Henry Laboratory at Colorado State University. NREL operates a next generation cellulosic/hemicellulosic pilot plant and is eager to find an online monitor that can provide feedback for efficient processing. NREL has identified a sensor that monitors glucose and xylose concentrations during processing as a high priority and will be the focus of this proposal. The Henry Lab authored the provisional patent and recently demonstrated resolution and sensitive detection of both glucose and xylose in model solutions using the technology. In this project, the Henry Lab will develop the conditions necessary to resolve glucose and xylose within real pilot plant samples provided by NREL. We conservatively estimate online monitoring would save the current cellulosic bioethanol industry $55 million/yr. with even greater savings in the future cellulosic/hemicellulosic industry.
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