Biorefineries built on the biochemical conversion platform can take advantage of their fermentative capacity to produce various organic acids, which can then be reacted with ethanol to make a number of different higher-valued ester compounds.
In the past, cheap oil spurred the development of petroleum-based consumer products such as plastics. Today high oil prices are driving research and development away from fossil fuel-based processes to those using renewable feedstocks. The markets for these new bioproducts are growing and companies such as Massachusetts-based Metabolix Inc. are cashing in by engineering bioenergy crops that also serve as factories for bioplastics.
Whether red, green or blue, tractors are as indispensable to a farmer as seed or land. Someday, parts of those tractors may be made from last year's harvest as researchers from North Dakota State University seek ways to make reinforced composite plastics from the oils, proteins and fibers grown in American fields.
Researchers believe that the economics are right for using plasma gasification technology to convert municipal solid waste into energy. It's just a matter of getting that first commercial plant built in the United States for it to catch on.
Tom Engel traveled halfway across the world in search of a way to make clean, dependable, renewable energy and brought back BioBricks. With these compact, environmentally friendly, biomass-based briquettes he aims to ease the pain that people experience when paying their heating bills.