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Lignocellulosic conversion to bioethanol

To harness the potential of lignocellulosic (plant cell wall) materials for sustainable production of bioethanol, we need to optimise energy output without negative environmental, social or economic impacts. We will optimise the release of sugars from plant cell walls to produce a fermentable feedstock that microorganisms can use to produce fuels and develop robust microbial strains that can use these feedstocks to produce bioethanol.

Aims and objectives

We aim to optimise conversion of plant cell wall material to bioethanol by:

  • Developing a sustainability tool kit to optimise energy balance and understand environmental, social and economic impacts of processes developed
  • Discovering novel fungal enzymes that can deconstruct plant cell walls
  • Developing green engineering and chemical approaches to release cell wall sugars
  • Developing novel yeast strains and fermentation processes that optimise bioethanol production
Image: BBSRC

Key resources and technologies

  • Fermentation technology
  • Sustainability analysis

Programme lead

  • The University of Nottingham

Associated programme members

  • University of Bath
  • BP
  • Bioethanol Limited
  • Briggs of Burton
  • British Sugar Limited
  • Coors Brewers Limited
  • DSM
  • Ethanol Technology Limited
  • AHDB
  • Pursuit Dynamics
  • SAB Miller
  • Scottish Whisky Research Institute

Case study – University brewery to help develop green technologies

SABMiller plc - one of the world's largest brewing companies - is to invest £2M in a purpose-built micro-brewery at the University of Nottingham. The facility will enhance the University's highly-respected teaching and research in brewing science.

Professor Katherine Smart
Professor Katherine Smart

The 1,000 litre plant is due to open its doors in 2011. It will be used to develop, and rigorously test, new technologies and processes to enhance beer quality and shelf life, while improving the sustainability of brewing. It will also be used to deliver the University's flagship Masters degree course in brewing science, which was developed with support from BBSRC's Modular Training for Industry scheme.

SABMiller Professor of Brewing Science Katherine Smart said, "Having monitored full scale processes we have identified areas where improvements could be made. Our lab research has been really exciting, but to succeed in developing new technologies it is essential to have access to this kind of facility so that our ideas can be tested at a suitable scale".

SABMiller's Chief Brewer Professor Barry Axcell said, "This will allow for greater synergies in our research."