|Characterization of Enzymic
Treatments of Pretreated
Project Leader and Principal UC Investigators
Sharron Shoemaker - Director, California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research, Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis
Elena Vlasenko - Postgraduate Researcher, California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research, Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis
John Labavitch - Professor, Department of Pomology, UC Davis
|Rice straw left in fields after harvest has for years been a
problem that growers dealt with simply by burning their fields. Locked inside this straw,
however, is a vast untapped resource - complex carbohydrates that could be converted to
fermentable sugars and ultimately to ethanol for commercial energy production.
Scientists working on this project have been exploring state- of-the-art methods of pretreating rice straw to enhance the action of enzymes that facilitate the conversion of straw to ethanol. They have also evaluated six commercial cellulases (enzymes) that could be used in the process.
The straw pretreatment processes include a steam treatment, an acid treatment and an ammonia treatment. The study has determined that the acid treatment works best in preparing rice straw for enzyme treatment and that the most effective enzyme for rice straw digestion is a cellulose enzyme manufactured by a Canadian corporation.
Research from this and related projects is laying the foundation for a biomass energy project that is under development in Gridley. The project involves several partners and is currently undergoing an economic assessment. Within three years straw from the fields of California rice growers should be providing energy for thousands of homes and businesses in the Sacramento Valley.