A recent study done by scientists in a university in Finland shows that it is possible to make butanol fit for use as biofuel and other chemicals from wood biomass using microbes.

Butanol has been established as one of the better options for transport vehicle fuels. Butanol is not soluble in water and also has more energy content compared to ethanol.

The popular choice as raw material to make butanol are cane sugar and starch but experts at Aalto University made use of lignocellulose or more commonly known as wood biomass. This source can be considered as a better choice as it does not compete with human food needs and production.

Wood biomass consists of lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose as its basic substances. The first two substances are good sources of nutrition for the microbes and therefore bioprocessing is highly probable. When the biomass of wood is boiled in a mixture of sulphur dioxide, alcohol, and water, the substances of wood are separated. The cellulose portion can be used for paper, other products can be crafted from the non-cellulose part, and the hemicellulose is a good raw material for microbes to produce other chemicals.

By 2020, the European Union requires that all fuel should have 10% biofuel component. Butanol can be added to transportation fuel that we use today without the need to do a lot of modification to the ordinary combustion engine. The 20% butanol blend of fuel results to lower harmful emissions compared to ordinary fossil fuel.

Comparing the use of butanol with ethanol, the latter’s blend of fuel results to higher level of odor nuisances in the air. Experts look into the use of butanol in combo with a pulp plant in the biorefinery setup to improve energy use and production of biofuel.

The current project in the university in Finland is to improve the refining value of residues which normally cannot be further utilized.

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