Bioenergy obtained from crops is a sustainable substitute to fossil fuels, opine experts. In the continued effort to harness bioenergy, new crops such as enerycane have emerged to produce fuel several times more than that produced by soybeans for each acre. Yet, challenges remain to process the crop to extract fuel efficiently.
Meanwhile, a couple of new studies from the University of Illinois carried out to learn energycane further. This involved the potential of pretreatment methods free of chemicals, commercial-scale feasibility, and development of high-throughput phenotyping methods of producing fuel from energycane in various scenarios.
The studies undertaken were part of ROGUE. Elaborately, ROGUE focuses on bioengineering assembly of triacylglycerides in the stems and leaves of enerycane. This enables the production of higher volume of industrial vegetable oil for each acre than what was previously possible.
“Based on scientific analysis, the productivity of non-food crops is very high for each unit of land. Soybean has been long used to produce biodiesel, but, if it is cultivated methodically, it can help increase yield, more oil, and subsequently increased biofuel, stated one of the lead co-authors of the study.
In terms of process of production of biofuel from crops, it involves disintegrating the cellulosic material and extracting the oil in a sequence of steps. In the first step, it involves extracting juice. This leaves bagasse – a lignocellulosic material that can be processed to produce sugars and subsequently fermented into bioethanol.
Importantly, the processing of lignocellulosic biomass involves pretreatment – a critical step. This requires to break the recalcitrant structure of the material, for enzymes to access the cellulose, added the co-author.