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Breakthrough makes products greener

Sunitha Sadula, a postdoctoral researcher at UD’s Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation, a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center, works in the lab to extract sugars from wood chips, corncobs and other forest and farm waste.

Scientists in America have pioneered a technique that could make thousands of commonly used products greener.

The team from the University of Delaware (UD) and Rutgers University has developed a one step process to efficiently extract sugars from organic waste like wood chips and corn cobs. This biorenewable feedstock offers a sustainable alternative to the petroleum typically used in the production of everyday items, household goods and medicines.

“To make greener chemicals and fuel, we’re working with plant material, but we don’t want to compete with its food value,” said Basudeb Saha, associate director for research at UD’s Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation. “So instead of taking corn and extracting its sugars to make ethanol, we’re making use of the stalks and cobs left over after the corn is harvested, as well as other kinds of waste like wood chips and rice hulls.”

“Our process enables – for the first time –the economical production of feed streams that could profoundly improve the economics of cellulosic bioproducts manufactured downstream, not to mention the environmental benefits of replacing petroleum,” Saha added.

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