Cellulosic Ethanol: Energy for the Future!

Wendy Guo and Jenny Wang Background
One of the key challenges that the world faces today is to create a safe, efficient, and sustainable energy source to support our energy needs. On the topic of fuel, it is necessary to realize that gas is not only expensive but also very damaging to the atmosphere. Biofuels have a great deal of potential as it is still a developing alternative fuel. Created from organic matter, it is sustainable due to the fact that plants absorb the same amount carbon in their lifetime as when they are used up as fuel. [1] Furthermore, the most promising form of biofuel is cellulosic ethanol, since it can be made from a variety of waste materials such as corn husk, sugarcane molasses, citrus peels, and as well as leaf litter. This is an advantage to common corn ethanol because rather than taking up land to grow this staple crop, organic wastes can be used instead. [2]

Figure 1. Cellulose and starch: structure and hydrolysis

There are two main “helpers” that are required for the decomposition of ethanol from cellulosic materials, which are enzymes and yeast. Cellulase is an enzyme that is used for hydrolysis of cellulose. [3] After the cellulose has been broken down, an enzyme called amylase is needed to catalyze the breakdown of starch into sugars, both depicted in Figure 1. [4] Once the sugar is produced, yeast is used to help produce alcohol as shown in the reaction in Figure 2. The specific strain of yeast used that optimizes the amount of alcohol produced is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, more commonly known as distiller’s yeast.
26 April 2013 - Wendy Guo and Jenny Wang- Cellulosic Ethanol: Energy for the Future!

anywhere from half an hour to as much as two weeks. and using enzymes would create the most yield: if the mixture of cellulose with enzymes. Hypothesis There were two hypotheses created for this experiment. Purpose The purpose of this project is to improve part of the production process of cellulosic ethanol so that it is more efficient and cost effective. This kept the enzymes working at its optimal temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. many papers had a large range of the amount of optimal time. yeast. and 5A. This was used to prove that this solution would be more effective over the other ones.Wendy Guo and Jenny Wang. The solution from flask A (treated with the enzymes) was added into flasks 1A. The master flasks were kept in a water bath (homemade incubator) for three days. dextrose. as well as 6B. Both also contained a buffer to maintain the pH level neutral. The first one explains that the mixture of yeast. Flask A was treated with enzymes (cellulase and amylase). two master flasks were prepared. This project tests for the optimal amount of time required for fermentation by yeast to turn cellulosic materials into ethanol fuel. being the control. They are both composed of Metamucil fibre powder (cellulose) dissolved in distilled water. 3A.Figure 2. Fermentation of glucose by yeast. Flasks 1A and 2B had nothing 26 April 2013 . Also.Cellulosic Ethanol: Energy for the Future! . while the solution from flask B was added to flasks 2B. then it is the most effective combination in producing cellulosic ethanol in a certain period of time. After 3 days. and dextrose creates the most ethanol than other mixtures of the above ingredients. while flask B was not. a total of 7 smaller flasks were created from the master flasks. a question was posed due to the fact it was unclear as to how many days this could take. For testing the optimal number of days required for fermentation. 4B. Procedure To begin.

Flasks 5A and 6B had yeast and 2% dextrose added. Average of 10 trials ± SD 26 April 2013 . and 2% dextrose. then there would be supplementary sugar. when weighing the flasks with the balloons.added. The experiment was first tested by placing balloons onto the flasks to represent the carbon dioxide being produced and to collect data on the amount of gas. This is because the more gas being produced within the flask.Cellulosic Ethanol: Energy for the Future! . eudiometers were used to collect accurate data as gas produced could be measure by water displacement. 10 more trials were accomplished with eudiometers to obtain more accurate data of the carbon dioxide. This was the positive control to show that no alcohol was being produced without the help of yeast. yeast. flasks 3A and 4B had yeast added. Next. Instead of measuring the amount of ethanol produced (which would require distillation). and were once again checked daily to obtain the amount of gas being produced. The first 10 trials were done by placing balloons on top of each flask to get a visual representation of the CO2. carbon dioxide production was recorded because in the decomposition reaction. From this. was with no master solution but just distilled water.Wendy Guo and Jenny Wang. Eventually. the data collected was inaccurate. CO2 Production Rate. trials from the balloons were used for visual representation. There was one more flask. the more likely it is to effuse out due to the higher pressure. Results Figure 3. Dextrose was added so that if the yeast ran out of cellulose. flask 7. This was the negative control to ensure that the yeast was working. However. Therefore. ethanol and carbon dioxide are directly proportional to one another.

then fermenting for five days would be the most cost efficient and rational choice. it is evident that both enzymes (from master flask A) as well as yeast (placed in flasks 3 and 5) are essential for successful ethanol production. and dextrose. Using yeast. as seen in Figure 3. The test also reveals that flask 5 is indeed the optimal mixture for ethanol production. the line begins to plateau. By day five or six. which is a mixture of cellulose treated with enzymes and yeast. ANOVA Comparison of CO2 Production Next. the data was statistically analyzed using ANOVA (Analysis of Variance tests).Wendy Guo and Jenny Wang. As shown in the graph. the slope of the first three days does not increase by much. In Figure 4. enzymes (cellulase and amylase). which consists of a mixture of cellulose treated with enzymes as well as yeast and 2% dextrose. comparing each of the 7 flasks for each and every day. and dextrose is the best combination for optimal efficiency.Cellulosic Ethanol: Energy for the Future! . It was clear that all flasks other than 3A and 5A could be disregarded. amylase. Flask 3A follows shortly behind.Flask 5A produced the largest volume of CO2 as expected. using the solution of cellulose. However. only these two solutions should be put to use in the future. distilled water. cellulase. 26 April 2013 . The other flasks did not produce nearly as much CO2. Figure 4. this statistical test showed that the peak fermentation occurs before the end of day 5. The results were inputted in Excel. if biorefineries were to utilize this information. during days four to six. Conclusion In conclusion. yeast. From this. the slope significantly increases.

Further Studies We would like to continue our research by running more trials to obtain more data and take eudiometer measurements past 7 days. sustainability. so that new research can be shared more easily between scientists and biofuel companies. and last but not least. We hope that this sustainable energy source will be soon utilized worldwide.Cellulosic Ethanol: Energy for the Future! . Bielle. Flora Ross. and the petroleum industry” (2009) [2] D. By using the information from our project. this is beneficial for production as large batches can be allowed to ferment for a relatively short period of time. especially when used as a fuel. Tiffany Lu. This data is crucial for when applied in large scale production because budgets come into play. And we’ve worked hard to take a small step towards this huge goal. quantity and comparing different feedstocks. Articles and Information (2013) 26 April 2013 .Wendy Guo and Jenny Wang. An organized database of optimized biofuel information is a goal towards which we are striving toward accomplishing. we would like to thank our parents for taking an interest in our project. Yichen Zhang. “Biofuels. “Can Ethanol from Corn Be Made Sustainable?” Scientific American: Science News. we want to continue experimenting to better other parts of the production process. such as temperature. Pamela Simmonds.Regarding the 5 days of fermentation time. Acknowledgements Many people have enlightened us with their valuable opinions and/or encouraged us to pursue this project. We couldn’t have done it without their support! References [1] IPIECA Biofuels Task Force. The addition of cellulase and amylase most definitely assisted in breaking down the cellulosic material for more convenient fermentation by yeast. It is important to know when and how much yeast or enzymes to utilize to produce optimal amounts of ethanol. with a set of optimized standards to make the process effective and cost-efficient. Furthermore. more ethanol can be produced. We couldn't be more thankful to the following people: Catherine Anderson. a great amount of costs can be reduced and in turn.

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