Displacing Petroleum-Derived Butanol with Plants
February 9, 2009
 
URBANA - Butanol is used in everything from brake fluid, to paint thinners, to plastics. According to a University of Illinois researcher, butanol made from plant material could displace butanol made from petroleum, just not at the fuel pump.

Hans Blaschek is a microbiologist who has been studying microorganisms that are used in fermentation processes for over 25 years. About 10 years ago, his lab at Illinois had a breakthrough with the development of a mutant strain of soil bacterium called Clostridium that produces higher concentrations of butanol when added to a vat of plant byproduct.

Blaschek says that although you could drive your car around with 100 percent butanol, it's about three times more valuable as a chemical than as a liquid fuel.

Recently Blaschek took his research to the genetic level, looking more closely at how the mutant strain produces higher concentrations of butanol.

He hopes that it won't be long before plant butanol can be produced on a large scale, the size of an ethanol plant.