Biofuel technology developed at the School of Physics wins prize at Bioenergy Australia Conference

12 December 2013

PhD student Clara Tran and Professor David McKenzie from the University of Sydney, School of Physics have presented an oral presentation at the Bioenergy Australia Conference, an organisation that combines Industry, Universities and CSIRO to promote the use of and research into biofuels and won the prize for the best poster presentation.

The paper was on the use of immobilised enzymes in second generation cellulosic ethanol production, in which waste cellulose is converted to ethanol.

A continuous simultaneous saccharification (the process of breaking complex carbohydrates into simple sugars) and fermentation process will allow the reuse of enzymes and yeast cells in bioreactors together with the recycling of unreacted intermediates, potentially reduces the production cost. In a continuous flow, enzymes and yeast cells are easily washed out unless they are immobilized on carriers which can be retained inside the reactors. This motivates the investigation of enzymes and yeast cells immobilized on polymers using Plasma immersion ion implantation (PII) treatment.

"Enzyme cost and efficiency are currently the main bottleneck for second generation bioethanol technology," said Ms Tran

"Our technology, developed in the School, for immobilising enzymes using plasmas has attracted the attention of the big players internationally" - Professor McKenzie

The blended fuel E10 is loosing market share to the much more expensive and fully imported Premium unleaded petrol. The reasons are hard to explain, but are associated with public perception and the disparate policies of the states. A consequence is that our excess ethanol production is exported.

Italy has the world's first commercial second generation ethanol plant and initial results are very promising ( China is producing enzymes for biofuels and will be a big biofuel producer in the future, challenging the USA and Brazil, the world's largest biofuel manufacturing and consuming nations.

Contact: Tom Gordon

Phone: 02 93513201

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