Day: February 3, 2020

ISTC develops greener biofuels process

Via the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Kirtika Kohli and BK Sharma have been busy in the lab creating a greener delignification method for biofuels refinery processes. Many see biofuels as a viable alternative to fossil fuels because they are renewable and can reduce carbon emissions through plant growth. However, biomass needs to be processed before it can be converted to biofuels.

Lignin is a substance found in plants that makes them rigid and woody. Lignin helps plants resist rotting, so biomass harvested for biofuels must undergo a pre-treatment process to break down the lignin. Once lignin is removed, the remaining biomass could be easily converted to monomeric sugars, which can  be converted biochemically into biofuels and other components in a biorefinery. With some additional refinement, the extracted lignin has the potential to be used in other applications in biofuels, biolubricants, polymers, binders, and biochemicals.

Current delignification processes have limited industrial applications because of their high costs, toxicity, and inability to recycle/reuse the chemicals used in the process. The team’s new method is more efficient, economic, and less toxic than current processes. It should ease operation/maintenance requirements and the need for special equipment as well as increase cost-effectiveness and recyclability. Their process is able to extract 85-88% of the lignin from Birchwood and Miscanthus (the two biomasses tested).

The team also developed a new lignin quantification method. The delignification process developed dissolves lignin into a green solvent that can be directly used for the quantification using a UV-Vis spectrophotometer. This new method is easier and more accurate than older lignin quantification methods, which were based on weight of the lignin yields that resulted in rough estimates.

Their paper is in-press and available online in Bioresource Technology: Effective Delignification of Lignocellulosic Biomass by Microwave Assisted Deep Eutectic Solvents.

Turning cow waste into clean power on a national scale

Read the full story from The Hill.

A 1,000-pound dairy cow produces an average of 80 pounds of manure each day. Multiply that by the estimated 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., and that’s a lot of manure. 

Dominion Energy, one of the nation’s largest energy producers —  headquartered in Richmond, Va. — wants to put some of that tremendous amount of livestock waste to good use by converting poop into power, while at the same time, reducing pollution. 

Already recently partnered with pork giant Smithfield Foods, Dominion has now launched a second waste-to-energy project in a strategic partnership with Vanguard Renewables and the Dairy Farmers of America.  

Adidas to launch new fabrics from recycled ocean plastic, polyester

Read the full story from Reuters.

Adidas will launch new fabrics made from recycled polyester and marine plastic waste and expand the product lines that use them after the success of shoes made with the Parley for the Oceans initiative, the sportswear firm said on Tuesday.

Rethinking land conservation to protect species that will need to move with climate change

Read the full story in Science Daily.

A new study finds that many species of animals and plants likely will need to migrate under climate change, and that conservation efforts will also need to shift to be effective.

Instant Hydrogen Production for Powering Fuel Cells

Read the full story from the American Institute of Physics.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the environmental impacts of energy have posed a concern. Recently, this has driven researchers to search for viable options for clean and renewable energy sources.

A schematic diagram demonstrating the combination of a hydrogen extraction system and a PEMFC for power supply. Credit: Jing Liu

A schematic diagram demonstrating the combination of a hydrogen extraction system and a PEMFC for power supply. Credit: Jing Liu

Due to its affordability and environmental friendliness, hydrogen is a feasible alternative to fossil fuels for energy applications. However, due to its low density, hydrogen is difficult to transport efficiently, and many on-board hydrogen generation methods are slow and energy intensive.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing and Tsinghua University, Beijing investigate real-time, on-demand hydrogen generation for use in fuel cells, which are a quiet and clean form of energy. They describe their results in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, from AIP Publishing.

Microplastics from ocean fishing can ‘hide’ in deep sediments

Read the full story at Phys.org.

Microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans is a growing problem, and most studies of the issue have focused on land-based sources, such as discarded plastic bags or water bottles. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology have linked microplastics in China’s Beibu Gulf with heavy fishing activities. Surprisingly, many of the particles were hidden in deep sediments on the ocean floor, which could have led scientists to underestimate the extent of the contamination.

Fungal decisions can affect climate

Read the full story at Phys.org.

When we think of climate change, we tend to think about greenhouse gases, fossil fuels and pollution. Most of us don’t think about fungi.

But Kathleen Treseder does. Treseder, an ecologist at the University of California, Irvine, studies how fungi can affect climate and vice-versa.

Targeting “Always On” Electronics Could Reduce Power Waste

Read the full story in Governing.

A study by Alliant Energy found that the average Wisconsin household was wasting money and power on “always on” electronics, like coffee pots or DVD players. “Energy efficiency is a slam-dunk win on an economic basis.”

Takeaways from Philly’s Municipal Building Waste Audit Program

Read the full story at Waste360.

Results from the first two years of the city’s audit program report outline waste challenges, takeaways and opportunities for improvement.

Vertical farms of the future require genetically edited plants, says scientist

Read the full story in Food Navigator.

There is an innovation gap in urban agriculture, suggests Aberystwyth University Professor Huw Jones, whereby we have ‘huge innovation’ in vertical farming, yet still use ‘old seeds’ and ‘old plant architecture’.

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