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The global energy economy is huge and thoughts of replacing large amounts of petroleum based fuels by massive levels of fermentation of grains are not realistic. On an energy basis what global agriculture produces for food will almost cover the energy demands if all of it is redirected to the production of fuels—either as alcohols for gasoline or as fat derivatives for diesel fuel. This means that chemical processes need to be developed that allow inclusion of non-food based agricultural and urban wastes as well as forest debris into the energy economy. These represent opportunities to capture new sources of energy that would otherwise not be captured. This project is based on the idea that every little bit helps, and focuses on a hands-on approach to isolating chemicals from fallen vegetation with an emphasis on adding to the transportation fuel pool. Hydrolysis of cellulosic wastes from various sources easily collected on our campus has been explored seeking ways to break them down to fermentable sugars. These sugars are then fermented to form alcohols suitable for inclusion in gasoline. Extraction of vegetable oils has also been explored. Finally an attempt has been made to quantify the impact such a strategy might have on global energy supplies if practiced on a wide-scale basis.
Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Ken Frost, Ph.D.
National Conference on Undergraduate Research
University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse
Biotechnology | Chemistry | Environmental Chemistry | Oil, Gas, and Energy
Ham, Alexandra; Pecora, Gabrielle; Bui, Hoaithuong; Camarella, Timothy; Pham, Victor; and Ting, Marc, "Biofuels: A Hands-On Approach, Learning the Potential of Utilizing Non-Food Sources" (2009). Student Research Posters. 1.