Thermochemical pretreatment helps convert lignocellulose to biofuels.
Second generation biofuels
CSIRO is assessing current state-of-the-art technology for developing second generation biofuels obtained from lignocellulose.
5 August 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011
With increasing worldwide demand for fuel and energy, alternative sustainable sources of transport fuels will be needed to ensure the security and longevity of supply.
There has been recent activity around the development of the Australian biofuels industry to partially offset reliance upon petrochemical sources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
With support from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), CSIRO's Division of Entomology and the Energy Transformed Flagship have authored a comprehensive report on production of second generation biofuels.
Our scientists have identified current state-of-the-art technologies for converting lignocellulosic materials to second generation biofuels and opportunities for new agricultural industries to be developed.
Major outcomes of the review include the identification of:
- second generation biofuels
- feedstocks from which biofuels may be produced
- conversion processes employed to convert a wide range of lignocellulosic materials into biofuels.
Biofuels production from lignocellulose
Second generation biofuels can be sourced from a wide selection of plant and woody materials.
Lignocellulose is a collective term for the components of plants and wood and includes:
Lignocellulose has the potential to supply a considerable proportion of low cost transport fuels if cost effective conversion processes are available. Once harvested, lignocellulose undergoes pretreatment, to facilitate the chemical conversion to a biofuel.
Two major conversion processing platforms exist:
- enzymatic conversion - enzymes are added to pretreated plant material to depolymerise it to individual sugars which can be fermented to fuels
- thermochemical - lignocellulose is heated to moderate or high temperatures to produce mixtures of chemicals which can be further transformed by catalysts or microorganisms, to fuels.
It is possible to convert a wide range of lignocellulosic materials into biofuels however, technological hurdles need to be overcome before conversion of lignocellulose to transport biofuels can be achieved in a cost effective and sustainable manner.
Developing a biofuel industry in Australia
There are many advantages of developing a lignocellulosic biofuels industry in Australia. Biomass crops can be used to add value to existing rural industry processes and provide unique opportunities for new agricultural industries to be developed.
In less productive agricultural lands, woody shrubs and perennial grasses can be grown with few inputs, competing less with land and water resources needed for food crops.
Download images at: New report paints bright future for second-generation biofuels.
Learn more about bioeconomy research with the Crop Biofactories Initiative.