The pursuit of new feedstocks for next generation ethanol has gone underwater.
Seaweed has been getting quite a bit of attention for its potential in ethanol production, especially in Asia. Most recently, scientists from Tohoku University and Tohoku Electric Power announced they have developed a technology to efficiently generate ethanol from seaweed such as sea tangle and sea grape, according to reports from Japan over the weekend. The technology reportedly uses a natural yeast and a new fermentation process that mixes finely cut seaweed with enzymes and blends it into a pulp. The scientists say they succeeded in producing 200 milliliters of ethanol from 1 kg of seaweed.
The idea of using seaweed for ethanol is also being researched in Korea and the Philippines, as well as in Chile. One of the benefits to using seaweed as an ethanol feedstock are that it grows quickly and allows for as much as six harvests per year. Also, since seaweeds do not have lignin, pretreatment is not necessary before converting them to fuels, making it potentially less expensive than other cellulosic sources.