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(Last updated 8/18/09)

New Research Blog Available Here!!


NOTE TO PRODUCERS: Ohio State University has opened a new broadcast studio with Vyvx and ISDN technology, allowing us to provide quick connectivity to university researchers.  To schedule an expert, please call Joe Camoriano, (614) 378-6478, camoriano.1@osu.edu.

The presentation “Evolution of solvent-producing Clostridium beijerinckii toward high butanol tolerance” is part of the oral session Biotechnological Solutions to Global Security: Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy, which will take place from 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. in Ronald Reagan Bldg. Atrium Ballroom A.

Editor’s note: Yang will not be attending the American Chemical Society meeting (one of his students will be making the presentation), so reporters may reach him at the above phone number and email during this time.

Previous stories pertaining to Professor Yang's research:

"Chemical Tests Of Cell Growth Enter Third Dimension," 9/14/06.

"Researchers Devise Way To Mass-Produce Embryonic Stem Cells," 3/15/05.

"Bioreactor Boosts Chemical Fermentation By 50 Percent: Study," 3/26/04.

"Bioreactor Grows Cells That Produce Possible Anti-Cancer Protein," 8/31/98.

"First Medical Test On CD Gets Good Results," 7/13/04.

"Researchers Find Key To Growing, Differentiating Human Cells," 4/4/00.

"Researchers Grow Healthy Human Placental Cells For Drug Research," 9/30/98.

[Embargoed for release until 8:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2009, to coincide with presentation at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Washington, DC.]

RESEARCHERS BOOST PRODUCTION OF BIOFUEL THAT COULD REPLACE GASOLINE

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Engineers at Ohio State University have found a way to double the production of the biofuel butanol, which might someday replace gasoline in automobiles.

The process improves on the conventional method for brewing butanol in a bacterial fermentation tank.

Shang-Tian Yang

Normally, bacteria could only produce a certain amount of butanol -- perhaps 15 grams of the chemical for every liter of water in the tank -- before the tank would become too toxic for the bacteria to survive, explained Shang-Tian Yang, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State.

Yang and his colleagues developed a mutant strain of the bacterium Clostridium beijerinckii in a bioreactor containing bundles of polyester fibers. In that environment, the mutant bacteria produced up to 30 grams of butanol per liter.

The researchers reported their results at the American Chemical Society meeting Wednesday in Washington, DC.

Right now, butanol is mainly used as a solvent, or in industrial processes that make other chemicals. But experts believe that this form of alcohol holds potential as a biofuel.

Once developed as a fuel, butanol could potentially be used in conventional automobiles in place of gasoline, while producing more energy than another alternative fuel, ethanol.

Yang said that this use of his patented fibrous-bed bioreactor would ultimately save money.

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Right now, butanol is mainly used as a solvent, or in industrial processes that make other chemicals. Once developed as a fuel, butanol could potentially be used in conventional automobiles in place of gasoline, while producing more energy than another alternative fuel, ethanol.


“Today, the recovery and purification of butanol account for about 40 percent of the total production cost,” explained Yang, “Because we are able to create butanol at higher concentrations, we believe we can lower those recovery and purification costs and make biofuel production more economical.”

Currently, a gallon of butanol costs approximately $3.00 -- a little more than the current price for a gallon of gasoline.

The engineers are applying for a patent on the mutant bacterium and the butanol production methodology, and will work with industry to develop the technology.

This research is funded by the Ohio Department of Development.

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Contact: Shang-Tian Yang, (614) 292-6611; Yang.15@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu