Honda and the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), a Japanese nonprofit agency, announced that they have made a breakthrough in ethanol production. The organizations have collaborated to develop a practical way to use discarded plant material to make abundant quantities of the alternative fuel. According to Honda, the process “holds enormous potential as a major step forward toward the realization of an energy sustainability society.”

Rice straw is a component of cellulosic ethanol

Rice straw is one of the components used in the RITE-Honda process for making cellulosic ethanol. Credit: Honda Worldwide

The RITE-Honda process allows for large volumes of cellulosic ethanol to be made from waste wood, rice straw, leaves, and other soft-biomass, which often is discarded. The process uses a microorganism developed by RITE that converts sugar into alcohol and helps reduce interference in the fermentation process. This allows for more-efficient ethanol production compared to traditional methods.

“This achievement solves the last remaining fundamental hurdle to ethanol production from soft biomass,” said RITE researcher Hideaki Yukawa.

Honda hopes to set up a pilot biorefinery to test the new process for practical application in 2008.

The RITE strain magnified

How the RITE strain appears through a microscopic lens. Credit: Honda Worldwide

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