Research on Cellulosic Ethanol Technology Yields Results

Commercial production of cellulosic ethanol as a low-cost renewable fuel by Mascoma Corp., a cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol company, is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Massachusetts-based company’s new partnership with Dartmouth College will allow the continuation of research into producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass technology based on several patents from Dartmouth.

Ethanol made from cellulosic biomass (grass, wood, agricultural and forestry wastes) has significantly lower raw material cost and expands the potential for ethanol to blend with and displace gasoline with a cleaner, renewable, domestically produced liquid fuel. Currently ethanol in the U.S. is made primarily from corn, a relatively expensive and limited supply food crop. The cellulosic ethanol technology is based on work conducted and directed by Dartmouth Engineering Professor Lee Lynd, Ph.D. An expert in microbial cellulose conversion and cellulosic ethanol production pioneer, Lynd co-founded Mascoma, and serves as its chief scientific officer. Mascoma’s sponsorship of research at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering will help advance the development of the cost-effective production of cellulosic ethanol. In turn, the college is supporting Mascoma’s commercialization of the cellulosic ethanol technology, and has taken an undisclosed equity position. “These license and sponsored research agreements will enable Dartmouth to contribute to this technology of the future, which is becoming increasingly crucial for our national economy and the United States geopolitical goals,” said Alla Kan, Director of the Technology Transfer Office at Dartmouth. “Mascoma and Dartmouth share a vision that bioengineering of advanced biocatalysts will significantly reduce the cost of ethanol and expand the use of ethanol production from a wide range of cellulosic material. ” Mascoma is aggressively pursuing the development of advanced cellulosic ethanol projects based on technology developed in Professor Lynd’s labs at Dartmouth’s Thayer School. Initial deployment activities are focused on strategic partnerships for conversion of waste paper sludge and other cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol. “Conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol represents a significant commercial opportunity for Mascoma, as well as being environmentally sustainable, enhancing national security by reducing reliance on foreign oil, and enabling rural economic development and job creation,” said Colin South, Mascoma’s president.

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