Efficiently extracting sugars from biomass is key to producing cost-effective fuels and chemicals from plants. UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering James Dumesic has developed a new method for extracting sugars that works with a wide variety of biomass and avoids the use of expensive chemicals.
By using gamma valerolactone (or GVL), a chemical that can be produced from plants, Dumesic can deconstruct biomass and in so doing produce sugars that can be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels or chemicals. Since GVL is created from plant material, it's both renewable and more affordable than most enzyme-based deconstruction methods.
GVL has the potential to create cost-disruptive bio-renewable fuels and chemicals for a wide range of industries. This one-step process is much cleaner and more affordable than current deconstruction methods, and could help "green" a number of industries – biofuels, and the paper and pulp industries, chief among them.