Ethanol can be made through the fermentation of many natural substances and used to run motorcars. There is some dispute about the net energy benefit of producing ethanol from food crops including corn, sugarcane is considered more efficient than most.
At the recent big biotechnology conference in Chicago an even more effective system for ethanol production from genetically modified (GM) sugarcane was announced by Farmacule and its research partner Queensland University of Technology (QUT):
According to Mel Bridges, Farmacule chairman, the company’s research team successfully modified sugarcane plants using the INPACT technology (and cellulases in the plant) to enable highly efficient conversion of cellulose into fermentable sugars after crushing. The remaining sugars can then be used efficiently to produce bioethanol, leaving the sucrose untouched and available for the consumer sugar market.
Bridges says that the concept, known as cellulosic bioethanol, is seen as the next generation of ethanol production techniques as it aims to produce higher yields per hectare at costs lower than current techniques.
“President Bush recently endorsed the cellulosic bioethanol approach, suggesting that it may come to market within six years,” said Bridges. “Farmacule’s genetic technology will make this a reality, producing viable plants that contain the cellulase enzyme to enable the cost-efficient production of ethanol as a byproduct of the sugarcane.”
Farmacule’s proprietary technology, Bridges added, would use cellulase in the sugarcane leaf material to convert cellulose to fermentable sugars that could then be converted to bioethanol. He said the use of this technology in bioethanol production is an important development in alternative fuels and offers strong benefits for sugar producers and the local and international economies.
“The key to our approach will be to generate plants in which the over-expression of high levels of cellulase is tightly controlled, and activated when required, using our technology. This ensures that the sucrose used for consumer sugar is not sacrificed in any way — we would just be using the waste that’s left after the sucrose is extracted,” he explained.
I had thought President Bush was backing hydrogen, rather than ethanol powered motorcars?
It is interesting this biotechnology breakthrough has come out of Australia, with the mainstream Australian media still running lots of antibiotechnology stories. David Tribe critiques a recent feature in Melbourne’s The Age.
And it is Brazil that has already mapped the sugar genome and already developed a viable ethanol industry.
Perhaps Australians are really innovative, an issue Thomas Barlow discusses in his new book ‘The Australian Miracle’?