New sugar platform shows promise

By Staff | March 14, 2014

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a process that uses gamma valerolactone (GVL) to deconstruct plants and produce sugars that can be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels. The team is expected to begin scaling up the process later this year.

GLV is created from plant material. In addition to being renewable, it’s more affordable than conversion methods requiring expensive chemicals or enzymes. According to the researchers, the process can convert 85 to 95 percent of the starting material to sugars.

To demonstrate the economic viability of the process, the researchers were able to concentrate the sugar, remove the GVL for reuse and show that yeast could successfully generate biofuel from the sugar stream. An initial economic assessment has indicated the technology could produce ethanol at a cost savings of about 10 percent compared to current technologies.