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  • Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid.

  • It is best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and in thermometers. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol.

  • Ethanol is also known as EtOH, using the common organic chemistry notation of representing the ethyl group (C2H5) with Et.

  • It can be used as a fuel, mainly as a biofuel alternative to gasoline.


  • Ethanol can be mass-produced by fermentation of sugar or by hydration of ethylene (ethene CH2=CH2) from petroleum and other sources.

  • The basic steps for large scale production of ethanol are: microbial (yeast) fermentation of sugars, distillation, dehydration, and denaturing.

  • Currently, the most widely used purification method is a physical absorption process using a molecular sieve.

  • Another method, azeotropic distillation, is achieved by adding the hydrocarbon benzene which also denatures the ethanol (to render it undrinkable for duty purposes). A third method involves use of calcium oxide as a desiccant.

  • During the ethanol production process, two valuable co-products are created: carbon dioxide and distillers grains.


  • The ability to make ethanol from straw- rice straw, wheat straw, oat straw, etc is the modern day equivalent of the Holy Grail or the Philosopher’s Stone.

  • It involves a genetically modified organism: a genetically engineered yeast to convert glucose AND xylose into ethanol.

  • Some biological processes have rendered possible routes for producing ethanol and methane in large volumes.

  • A worldwide interest in the utilization of bio-ethanol as an energy source has stimulated studies on the cost and efficiency of industrial processes for ethanol production.

  • Traditionally, ethanol has been produced in batch fermentation with yeast strains that can- not tolerate high concentration of ethanol.

  • Zymomonas mobilis, a gram-negative bacterium, is considered as an alternative organism in large-scale fuel ethanol production.


  • Cellulose ethanol has two unique advantages over conventional ethanol. First, the greenhouse gas emission reductions from cellulose ethanol are three times greater than those from grain based ethanol on a life cycle basis.

  • Second, cellulose ethanol is made from a plentiful and renewable resource, the non-food portion of agriculture crops (e.g. straw, corn stalks and corn cobs).

  • The growth in domestic ethanol production over recent years has been well-documented. Increases in ethanol production reflected comparable growth in U.S. ethanol production capacity.

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