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News Link • Energy

Turning garbage into sugar for fuel

• Martin LaMonica via TechnologyReview.com
 

For advanced biofuel companies, there are often questions over how much biomass is available to make biofuels and chemicals. But garbage is often in plentiful supply.

Municipal waste hauler Waste Management yesterday announced a deal to explore making chemicals and fuels from trash with Renmatix, a startup which has a low-cost process for converting biomass into sugars. 

The company’s technology uses supercritical water, or water at very high temperature and pressure, to dissolve the cellulose and hemicellulose in organic materials, such as wood chips, into sugar. Once the sugars are produced, the company can use standard fermentation equipment to make ethanol or other chemicals. (See, Use of Supercritical Water Could Cost of Ethanol)

Renmatix is operating a demonstration plant in Georgia using wood chips as a feedstock but says its process works with a range of inputs. In its deal with Waste Management, Renmatix will explore using “urban waste streams” to make sugar, including recyclables, food straps, construction and demolition debris, and pulp and paper waste. Renmatix received a vote of confidence earlier this year when chemical giant BASF invested $30 million in the company to build a large-scale facility (See, BASF Funds Sugar from Wood Startup).

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