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Mascoma genetically engineers bacteria to produce ethanol without expensive enzyme
Researchers from Boston-based Mascoma Corp. and Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., have genetically engineered a thermophilic bacterium that can be used in the fermentation process to produce only ethanol.
The thermophilic bacterium discovery is the first step in developing ethanol-producing microbes that can make ethanol from cellulosic biomass without adding enzymes, according to Lee Lynd, the chief scientific officer and co-founder of Mascoma, who is also a distinguished professor of environmental engineering design at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth.
"Our discovery is one potential avenue for research to facilitate turning inedible cellulosic biomass, including wood, grass, and various waste materials, into ethanol," Lynd said. "In the near term, the thermophilic bacterium we have developed is advantageous, because costly cellulase enzymes typically used for ethanol production can be augmented with [this] less expensive, genetically engineered new organism."

U.S. sugarcane-to-ethanol projects underway
More companies are looking at producing ethanol from sugarcane in the United States.

Pacific West Energy LLC in Kaumakani, Hawaii, will lease land and other assets from sugar producer *** & Robinson Inc. to grow sugarcane, and produce ethanol from sugar juice and molasses at a proposed 12 MMgy plant on the island of Kauai. After 119 years, *** & Robinson is closing its doors. The company has operated a 7,500-acre sugarcane plantation and sugar mill on the island, producing approximately 50,000 tons of sugar annually.

Meanwhile, Coskata Inc. in Warrenville, Ill., has been in discussions with Clewiston, Fla.-based United States Sugar Corp., the nation’s largest producer of cane sugar, about building a 50 MMgy to 100 MMgy ethanol plant adjacent to United States Sugar’s mill in Clewiston, according to Coskata spokesman Matthew Hargarten. Hargarten said Coskata would potentially be interested in building multiple sugarcane ethanol plants in Florida, as well as cellulosic ethanol plants in the northern part of the state where woody biomass might be available for ethanol production.
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