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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2005 Apr;67(1):19-25. Epub 2004 Dec 14.

Biotechnological processes for conversion of corn into ethanol.

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  • 1National Corn-To-Ethanol Research Center, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 400 University Park Drive, Edwardsville, IL 62025, USA.


Ethanol has been utilized as a fuel source in the United States since the turn of the century. However, it has repeatedly faced significant commercial viability obstacles relative to petroleum. Renewed interest exists in ethanol as a fuel source today owing to its positive impact on rural America, the environment and United States energy security. Today, most fuel ethanol is produced by either the dry grind or the wet mill process. Current technologies allow for 2.5 gallons (wet mill process) to 2.8 gallons (dry grind process) of ethanol (1 gallon = 3.785 l) per bushel of corn. Valuable co-products, distillers dried grains with solubles (dry grind) and corn gluten meal and feed (wet mill), are also generated in the production of ethanol. While current supplies are generated from both processes, the majority of the growth in the industry is from dry grind plant construction in rural communities across the corn belt. While fuel ethanol production is an energy-efficient process today, additional research is occurring to improve its long-term economic viability. Three of the most significant areas of research are in the production of hybrids with a higher starch content or a higher extractable starch content, in the conversion of the corn kernel fiber fraction to ethanol, and in the identification and development of new and higher-value co-products.

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