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Biotechnol Prog. 2012 Jul;28(4):893-8. doi: 10.1002/btpr.1575. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Energy, wealth, and human development: why and how biomass pretreatment research must improve.

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Biomass Conversion Research Laboratory, Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


A high level of human development is dependent on energy consumption (roughly 4 kW per person), and most developed countries that have reached this level have done so through the extensive use of fossil energy. However, given that fossil resources are finite, in order for developed countries to maintain their level of development and simultaneously allow developing countries to reach their potential, it is essential to develop viable renewable energy alternatives. Of particular importance are liquid fuel replacements for petroleum, the fossil resource that primarily drives commerce and economic growth. The intent of this article is to remind our fellow biofuel researchers, particularly those involved in lignocellulosic pretreatment, of these global issues and the serious nature of our work. We hope that this will inspire us to generate and report higher quality and more thorough data than has been done in the past. Only in this way can accurate comparisons and technoeconomic evaluations be made for the many different pretreatment technologies that are currently being researched. The data that primarily influence biorefinery economics can be subdivided into three main categories: yield, concentration, and rate. For these three categories we detail the specific data that should be reported for pretreatment research. In addition, there is other information that is needed to allow for a thorough comparison of pretreatment technologies. An overview of these criteria and our comparison of the current state of a number of pretreatment technologies with respect to these criteria are covered in the last section.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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