Abstract by Kate Thorpe
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Pretreatment of Biomass for Biofuel Conversion
Production of biofuels by anaerobic digestion (AD) has gained interest as a potential renewable energy source. AD is a series of biological processes where microorganisms break down biomass substrates, converting organic waste and lignocellulosic materials into biogas. The bacteria used in AD only convert 30 to 40 percent of the carbon in lignocellulose into biogas, making AD inefficient. Chemical pretreatment can overcome this by depolymerizing the lignocellulose in biomass, allowing for more efficient conversion to biogas. The extremophile, Caldicellulosiruptor bescii (C. bescii), can breakdown lignocellulose into small molecules at a high rate, optimizing the yield of biogas produced. Percent destruction is a method used to predict the efficiency of pretreatment for biomass substrates by performing a small-scale pretreatment experiment which determines which substrates will yield the highest content of biogas. Using C. bescii to pretreat biomass will optimize the yield of biogas produced, making AD economically and environmentally friendly.