New Approach to convert biomass into hydrogen and biochemicals

Industry Insights

To turn straw into gold is the dream of many like in the fabled Rumpelstiltskin. Whilst, in the literal sense, this may not be possible, the quest for this did not go in vain. Scientists are now using sunlight to convert straw into something valuable.

A scientific study by Canadian researchers exemplifies this. Using Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan, the study is an exemplary one to obtain something useful from biomass. It involves the use of sunlight to convert biomass such as wheat straw into hydrogen fuel and value-added biochemical. Eco-friendliness, more efficient, and lucrative are some attributes of the method.

In fact, use of biomass or plant material to produce energy has been studied for more than four decades. The two most common processes being biological and thermo-chemical, but, these are carbon intensive and are not economically feasible.

Using Sunlight, method involves pre-treatment of biomass 

Meanwhile, an alternative approach to commonly used petro-refinery has been the focus of researchers at University of Calgary. This novel and environment friendly approach of the researchers uses sunlight to break down biomass to produce hydrogen fuel and a high value biochemical. The research supported by the Canada First Research excellence Fund and its recent findings are published by the American Chemical society.

The pre-treatment of wheat straw is an important side of an effective biomass photorefinery approach. Anatomically, walls of plant cell are made of complex and highly organized cellulose structure – a key building block of biomass. The pre-treatment of biomass breaks the structure and exposes more of the matter to sun-powered process. The goal was to identify a pre-treatment that does not require non-renewable resources, said of the associates of the study.

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