This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 16, 2011

DOE Lauds a Biofuels First: Producing Isobutanol from Cellulose

Researchers at DOE's BioEnergy Science Center have achieved another advance in the drive toward creating next-generation biofuels by using bacteria to convert plant matter directly into isobutanol. Using consolidated bioprocessing—a one-step process to produce biofuels—the team produced isobutanol directly from cellulose for the first time. Higher-grade alcohols such as isobutanol are better candidates for replacing gasoline than ethanol is because they have an energy density, octane value, and volatility that are much closer to gasoline. The process highlights the possibility of creating a new industry using bio-material such as wheat and rice straw, lumber wastes, corn stover, and specially-developed plants to produce biofuels.

The new research is part of a broad DOE effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to create new economic opportunities for rural America. Researchers at DOE's BioEnergy Science Center, led by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), conducted the work. The team's findings are published online in the journal "Applied and Environmental Microbiology." See the press releases from DOE and ORNL, as well as the BioEnergy Science Center website.