Researchers in China have reported a discovery that could turn rice straw into an inexpensive new renewable source of biofuel.
Their new study, due to appear in ACS' bimonthly journal Energy and Fuels, describes a way to boost production of biofuel from rice straw by almost 65 percent.
Rice straw is the stem and leaves left behind after harvesting the grains.
Scientists, however, have not tapped rice straw for production of biogas because bacteria cannot easily break down its cellulose due to the complex physical and chemical structures of lignocellulosic biomass.
Now, scientist Xiujin Li and colleagues have treated rice straw with sodium hydroxide before allowing bacteria to ferment it into a biogas.
That so-called pre-treatment increased biogas production by making more cellulose and other compositions in straw available for digestion by the bacteria.
Three prototype facilities have already been built in China using this technology.