A team of researchers at Iowa State University is developing a new system which promises biomass-sourced ethanol at very efficient production levels. The system, described as an "integrated system of thermochemical and catalytic technologies" is ready to use any kind of biomass, such as cornstalks, to obtain ethanol.
The process works like this: Biomass would be broken down by fast pyrolysis, where the biomass is heated up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit in the absence of oxygen to be converted into a bio-oil. This oil would be gasified with steam and/or oxygen at 1,100 to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit to produce a synthesis gas, which is then reacted with a nanotechnology-based catalyst to produce ethanol.

The key of this process is the new nano-catalyst based on solid nanospheres just 250 billionths of a meter in diameter that have honeycomb channels running through them.

[Source: Sciencedaily]

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