French firm Biométhodes has inked an exclusive deal with Virginia Tech’s Intellectual Properties Inc. division to option-to-license the school’s processes to convert biomass into ethanol and hydrogen.
This story from the school says the processes were invented by Percival Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech:
An integrated biorefinery pilot plant in Virginia is envisioned to advance the process for the conversion of biomass into ethanol and valuable co-products, focusing especially on biomass pretreatment. The process for transformation of biomass into hydrogen will be developed in France and will be validated through a biohydrogen fuel cell prototype and small-scale model car.
Zhang developed a novel and innovative process for releasing sugars that can be fermented into ethanol from non-food sources into sugars that can be converted to ethanol. His process uses enzymes and mild and recyclable physicochemical conditions that do not require high pressure or high temperature. The gentle pretreatment process also results in no sugar degradation and separates other highly profitable products, such as lignin and acetic acid. “More revenues from lignocellulose components other than sugars would be vital to the success of biomass refineries,” said Zhang.
According to Gilles Amsallem, Biométhodes chief executive officer, “The pilot plant will integrate two major technologies – Virginia Tech’s pretreatment process, which breaks down the biomass, and Biométhodes’ hydrolysis enzyme optimization technology to improve the cellulose degradation into fermentable sugars.”
Virginia Tech officials believe the ethanol production from biomass can reach into the billions of gallon a year with Biométhodes scaling up the hydrogen end to deliver fuel cells for cars.