Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Use of Supercritical Water Could Cut Costs for Ethanol

Technology Review

  • Renmatix, a startup based in Kennesaw, Georgia, is using water at high pressure and temperature to transform wood chips into sugar, which can then be fermented to make biofuels and other chemicals. The company says the process can produce sugar for the same price as making it from sugarcane, which has led to profitable biofuels production in Brazil.
  • Instead of using enzymes or acids, Renmatix employs supercritical water—water at very high temperatures and pressures. [ comment:  Doesn't this seem like Thermal Depolymerization?  Technology that Andrea Rossi worked on in the seventies?]
  • Turning biomass into sugar using supercritical water involves first grinding biomass into small particles, then dissolving cellulose in water.
It would be better to use the hydrogen in a fuel cell.  Fuel cells are more efficient than burning it in an internal combustion engine.  Here's a process to reform ethanol into hydrogen.

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