Uganda scientists find ways to get ethanol from stems, leaves

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Opening the way for commercial production of ethanol from new source materials.

Uganda scientists have made a breakthrough in extracting bio-ethanol from non-food parts of plants — cassava stems, cassava leaves, pineapple leaves, elephant grass stems and wood — opening the way for commercial production of ethanol from new source materials.

The announcement follows more than a year of research into the potential of non-food parts of plants and cellulosic materials in producing bio-ethanol.

Cellulosic ethanol is difficult and expensive to break down into simple sugars required for ethanol production, but is eventually cheaper say the researchers who argue that the initial investment for biofuels is much lower than for fossil fuels.

“The research has proved that it is possible to get high quality ethanol for use in sanitary and automobile fuel. This offers an investment opportunity and we are ready to partner with investors in the private sector,” said Dr Yona Baguma a molecular biologist and lead researcher.

Ethanol is used in the production of pharmaceutical products, food preservation, home-based energy such as small lanterns, locally made lanterns and other lighting equipment.

The research aims at producing biofuels that can be blended with fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The government energy policy advocates the increased research and use of modern renewable energy sources, which it expects to increase from the current four per cent to 61 per cent of the total energy consumption by 2017.

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Source: The East African

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