WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Treating separate parts of corn stalks differently during ethanol conversion would make the production process more efficient, agricultural scientists say.
Purdue University researchers say not all parts of corn stover, the leaves and stalks left in a field after the harvest of cereal grain, are equal and shouldn't be treated alike when processing them to yield ethanol, a university release said Monday.
Normally everything is ground together and blended in the ethanol process, but Purdue research scientist Eduardo Ximenes and his research team found that three distinct parts of the stover -- the rind, pith and leaves -- break down in different ways.
Ethanol is created by using enzymes to extract sugars from cellulosic feedstocks and then fermenting and distilling those sugars into fuels.
"Today, researchers grind the parts together and treat it based on what's needed to get at the hardest part," Ximenes said. "We show that there are major differences in degradability among the tissues."
The pith and leaves of stover are fairly easy to break down while the rind, which only adds about 20 percent of the ethanol produced, requires 10 times more enzymes, he said.
"Is that extra 20 percent worth the added cost?" asked study co-author Nathan Mosier.
Separating pieces of corn stover and treating them differently would be a new way of approaching cellulosic ethanol production, the researchers said.