London, Feb 25 IANS | 9 months ago

A path-breaking technique to produce cheap second-generation biofuel from dead plant tissue is here which may finally help against rising fuel prices.

The second-generation biofuel process needs expensive enzymes. Now, a Danish/Iraqi collaboration presents a new method involving rice husks that avoids those expensive enzymes.

"The goal is to produce bioethanol from cellulose. Cellulose is very difficult to break down, and, therefore, cannot directly be used as a food source. If we can produce bioethanol from the corn stems and keep the corn cubs for food, we have come a long way," explained Per Morgen, professor at institute of physics, chemistry and pharmacy from University of Southern Denmark.

"We are proud to introduce a completely enzyme-free technique that is not patented and not expensive. The technique can be used by everybody," added Morgen.

With colleagues from University of Baghdad and Al-Muthanna University in Iraq, he found an acid that plays the key role in new technique.

The acid is called 'RHSO3H' and it is made from rice husks.

The ashes from burnt rice husks have a high content of silicate, and this is the important compound in the production of the new acid.

The scientists paired silicate particles with chlorosulfonic acid and this made the acid molecules attach themselves to the silicate compounds.

"The result was an entirely new molecule - the acid RHSO3H - which can replace the enzymes in the work of breaking down cellulose to sugar," explained Morgen.

The worldwide production of rice generates enormous amounts of rice husk and ashes from burning the husk, so this material is cheap and easy to get hold of.

(Posted on 25-02-2014)

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