UWSP Researchers Pushing for Development of New Biofuel

By  | 

The cost of fuel is up once again and with some fearing the oil supply is shrinking, the push for alternative fuels is peaking.

”We’re in a world where the demand for energy is growing steadily all the time, despite conservation efforts,” said Tom Still, the President of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

But Still says our state could be at the center of not only the research of development of new biofuels, but also the production of them.

He says our state already has a pretty good start producing biofuel, at least when it comes to second generation fuels, like corn-based ethanol.

In fact, Wisconsin could produce up to 500 million gallons of corn-based ethanol in 2008.

But Wisconsin producers, government officials and the state’s top researchers are hoping to make Wisconsin a leader in third or fourth generation biofuels.

“Third and fourth generations involve taking cellulose and unlocking those sugars into ethanol, or, over the long term, to turn them into other fuels that have other heating values and are more suitable for transportation fuel,” said Eric Singsaas, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Associate Biology Professor and cellulosic ethanol researcher.

The process of creating cellulosic ethanol is what Singsaas and a fellow researcher at UWSP are trying to create. The cellulose feedstock is derived from prairie grass, woody plants and even waste material and then needs to be converted into ethanol.

Still says the development of this technology is where the destiny of Wisconsin’s biofuels lies.

With the help of research teams at UWSP, and all the farming, forestry and paper industries in our area, Still, government officials, and the state’s leading researchers all think our state can unlock the energy in a number of biomaterials and become a provider of power.

“We have the right research, the right resources and then the right production side,” Still said.