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Grantee Research Project Results

Production of Biobutanol from Biomass using Novel Membrane Reactor

EPA Grant Number: SU833927
Title: Production of Biobutanol from Biomass using Novel Membrane Reactor
Investigators: Hestekin, Jamie , Clausen, Edgar , Draehn, Ellen , Thoma, Greg , Thomas, Nicole
Current Investigators: Hestekin, Jamie , Beitle, Robert , Clausen, Edgar , Draehn, Ellen , Thoma, Greg , Thomas, Nicole
Institution: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: August 15, 2008 through August 14, 2009
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008)
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development



To explore the use of a novel membrane reactor for the production of butanol from biomass-derived sugars as a sustainable and greener energy alternative biofuel.


Butanol is an alternative to ethanol as a fuel oxygenate for gasoline, and has several characteristics that make it desirable: 1) a low vapor pressure, therefore reducing air pollution and global warming, 2) a high energy per unit mass, therefore increasing fuel efficiency, and 3) the ability to blend at the refinery rather than at individual filling stations, making it very attractive to oil companies. However, traditional butanol production methods form many by-products, and thus this technology is not particularly feasible on a large scale. This project will focus on a novel membrane reactor for the production of butanol from biomass-derived sugars. Since as much as 500 million tons of biomass are available annually in the U.S. (Bain et al., 2003), the conversion of carbon-neutral lignocellulosic biomass to liquid fuel can help to alleviate the problems of energy independence and global warming, and also add prosperity to the U.S. economy. This novel fermentation scheme combines cutting edge cell recycle, membrane pervaporation, and continuous fermentation.

Expected Results:

Results will be measured with a full economic analysis using bench scale results to predict commercial-scale feasibility. In addition, a business plan for implementation of the technology at full-scale, a community information plan that will explain the link to sustainable energy and a detailed analysis of the regulatory environment will also be developed. This project will be part of a CAPSTONE design experience for students, creating an educational experience that students can carry with them throughout their lives.

Supplemental Keywords:

butanol, biomass, fermentation, pervaporation,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biomass, energy efficiency, energy technology, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, alternative energy source

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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