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Biofuel consist of two major categories of fuels-Bioethanol and Biodiesel, therefore there are two different procedures of producing biofuel from biomass. The methods followed have a strong impact on the end results that are achieved. There are two key reactions that are involved in the production of Bioethanol, one is Hydrolysis and the other is Fermentation.
The traditional way of producing Bioethanol would be to mix sugar, water and yeast bacteria, which are then allowed to ferment in warm environment. Gradually the mixture becomes a liquid that has an approximate of fifteen percent alcohol. As and how the alcohol percentage increases, the yeast consumes itself in the process and dies out eventually which stops the process altogether. Then the liquid mash that is created is distilled and purified to get approximately ninety-nine point five percent Bioethanol. Thus this process of fermentation is a series of chemical reactions wherein the simple sugars are converted into ethanol. Yeast or bacteria, which feed on the sugars, cause the reaction and thus fermentation occurs. Ethanol and carbon dioxide are produced as and how the yeast consumes the sugar. There is a simple formula that represents the process of simplified fermentation reaction, which is as follows:
C6H12O6 (glucose) —> 2 CH3CH2OH (ethanol)+ 2 CO2 (carbon dioxide)
In this kind of a process of production, bioethanol is derived from a variety of sugar and starch-rich crops, which includes grain, corn, sugar cane, and sugar beet. The process of traditional production of this kind of substitute fuel is well-known and easy process that only consists the fermentation of the sugar, similar to the process used to prepare beverages like whisky or vodka.
There is another process of making Bioethanol and that is presently in the phase of hypothesis wherein Bioethanol can be derived from materials that have lignocellulose which is primarily a strengthening substance found in the tissues of woody plant such as straw, cornstalks, wood chippings, or other organic materials that are often considered waste. When the usage of this method starts, the cost of production of bioethanol would be lesser than in the fermentation process, and the raw materials would be successfully grown in many more areas of the world.
This second process of production technology is supposed and hoped to be more productive than the first method since the output of Bioethanol would be doubled without straining the food chain as this process would allow the eco-friendly fuel to be produced from any organic matter. The output of this new process would be far more energy efficient than the previous process and would reduce the carbon dioxide emissions as well compared to biofuel, precisely Bioethanol produced by the process of fermentation.
Description of the process
Firstly the biomass goes through a step that reduces the size of the material so that it is easier to handle and to make the production process more efficient. It is much like the grinding process that the agricultural residues go through so that the particles have uniform size.
The next step is to treat the biomass in which the hemicellulose fraction of the biomass is broken down into simple sugars. It happens with the help of a simple chemical reaction called hydrolysis, which occurs when dilute sulfuric acid is mixed with the biomass feedstock. In this reaction, the complex chains of sugars in the hemicellulose are broken and that results in the releasing of simple sugars. The complex hemicellulose sugars are transformed into a mix of soluble five-carbon sugars, xylose and arabinose, and soluble six-carbon sugars, mannose and galactose. Small portion of the cellulose is also transformed into glucose. There are few enzymes that are used like the cellulase enzymes, which hydrolyze the cellulose part of the biomass. These enzymes are either produced in the last mentioned step or are to be bought.
After the hydrolysis of cellulose, the glucose and pentose are fermented which gives “ethanol broth” as an output. A final step of dehydration has to be done to remove the excess water from ethanol and this step is therefore called Ethanol Recovery. Then the other by-products that include products like lignin are used to produce electricity that is required for the production of ethanol.
Presently this whole process is quite expensive therefore scientists are working hard to find out a way out and a cheaper process so that the production becomes cost effective that would also lead to a considerable increase in the usage of Biofuel.