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Korean, North American researchers develop new biofuel production process

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An international team of researchers form the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) has developed a new biofuel production method that uses genetic engineering and environmentally friendly solvents.

In partnership with the UBC, the KIST has developed an effective biofuel production process that leverages the genetic engineering of lignin and bio-derived deep eutectic solvents.

Lignin, which makes up 20-30% of lignocellulosic biomass, hinders the production of biofuel so must be discarded before use. The efficient removal of lignin and its valorisation are therefore important to the economic feasibility and commercialisation of second-generation biofuels.

A lignin genetic engineering that can separate lignin more effectively was developed by researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute. Using this new technology, part of lignin's structure was altered and made shorter, requiring only a small amount of energy or chemicals to remove the lignin.

KIST’s Dr. Kwang Ho Kim developed a bio-derived deep eutectic solvent that was later added to this process. Finally, analysis technology developed by UBC was used to complete the production process and ensure the economic feasibility of the process.

"This research has produced results by maximising the core competencies of each field represented by the participating Korean, US and Canadian researchers in a bid to address an international agenda – namely, the development of climate change response technology," said Dr. Kim. "We will continue to develop Korea's fundamental technology and tackle climate change and global warming by playing a leading role in the convergence research we are conducting in collaboration with the outstanding research teams based in North America, to develop a sustainable bioenergy production technology."

The State University of New York in the US was also involved as a partner in the project.