U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

A Step Closer to the "Greening" of Commercial Biofuel Production
Published: June 16, 2011
Posted: July 15, 2011

Ionic liquids, a relatively new class of "green" solvents, can break down a wide range of feedstocks for biofuels, producing high yields of sugar and relatively pure lignin with short treatment times. However, even after scale up, ionic liquids are expensive compared with other pretreatment options. To determine which biofuel production parameters have the greatest impact on total cost, DOE's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) conducted a techno-economic analysis. A publically available techno-economic model of a biofuel refinery was developed, using ionic liquid pretreatment, to show a prioritized research path for fundamental understanding, process engineering, and operational improvements that would enable the use of ionic liquids in a commercial setting. The model results indicate, in decreasing order of significance, the importance of high prices for lignin byproducts, reducing the cost of the ionic liquid solvents and the concentration of the solvent used, and increasing the rate of solvent recovery. This analysis will lead to improvements in the cost effectiveness of biofuel production using ionic liquid-based processes.

Reference: Klein-Marcuschamer, D., B. A. Simmons, and H. W. Blanch. 2011. "Techno-Economic Analysis of a Lignocellulosic Ethanol Biorefinery with Ionic Liquid Pretreatment," Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, DOI: 10.1002/bbb.303.

Contact: John Houghton, SC-23.2, (301) 903-8288
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)
  • Research Area: Computational Biology, Bioinformatics, Modeling

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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