UPLB researchers target bioethanol from grass, wood and by-products in 5 years

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has recently organized a group of biotechnologists and chemical engineers to conduct scientific investigations in a bid to produce ethanol from so-called 3rd generation biofuel feedstocks.

Leading this group is Dr. Fidel Rey P. Nayve, Jr of UPLB-BIOTECH who has set eyes on producing fuel ethanol from lignocellulosic materials readily available in the Philippines—grass, wood and agricultural by-products.

Rice straw, rice hull, sugarcane bagasse, corn stover corn cobs, and even dried wood, cogon and talahib are jam-packed with lignocellulose, which is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.

Lignocellulose can be fermented to produce ethanol fuel. Meanwhile, dimethyl ether, another by-product of lignocellulose fermentation, is a promising fuel source for diesel and petroleum engines and even gas-powered turbines.

Dr. Nayve recently reported that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCASTRD) will be granting the UPLB scientists P10 M in research funds to develop technologies for cellulosic fuel ethanol production.

According to him, there is a good prospect of having a mature technology within the next five to 10 years. The UPLB-BIOTECH has already in its care several microorganisms which can be used to process grass, wood and agricultural by-products into ethanol.

It is just a matter of identifying which materials can be suitable for ethanol production and developing and optimizing the organisms’ capability to ferment the materials into ethanol.