A group of experts at the Michigan State University has designed a new biofuel process that can produce about twenty times the energy of the processes that we know today. The study makes use of microbes to make hydrogen and biofuel from agricultural wastes.
The microbiologists developed MECs or microbial electrolysis cells that utilizes the bacteria to breakdown the agricultural wastes and ferment them into ethanol. This method is quite unique as it makes use of another bacterium that clears up the mixture of all the non-ethanol material and at the same time generates electricity in the process.
Similar studies were done before but energy recovery for raw materials like corn stover is only about 3.5%. This new study shows a great improvement on this aspect as the energy recovery hits 35% to 40% from the fermentation process. This big jump on the energy recovery is pointed to the careful selection process of the bacterium use for fermentation and conversion to ethanol. The byproducts can also be processed by another bacterium keeping in mind to keep the process optimal.
The Geobacter sulfurreducens produces electricity. The generated electricity though is not harvested but used during the MEC to generate hydrogen and up the energy recovery. The production of the hydrogen helps with the energy recovery process and increases it to around 73%.
The scientists are still optimizing the process to make it commercially viable.