What is it about?

The thermodynamic implications of different bioethanol production routes from wheat straw (a cellulosic co-product or ‘waste’ stream) have been evaluated. Comparative thermodynamic (energy and exergy) analysis gives rise to alternative insights into the relative performance of various process chains. Energy analysis of four different production paths were firstly analysed via the consideration of mechanical work, temperature changes and separating techniques.

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Why is it important?

The Net Energy Value (NEV) of each production path or route was then evaluated, including the effect of system boundary expansion. In contrast, the thermodynamic property known as ‘exergy’ reflects the ability of undertake ‘useful work’, but does not represent well heating processes. Exergetic efficiencies were consequently obtained via chemical and physical exergy calculations, along with some of the electrical inputs to the different processes. The exergetic ’improvement potentials’ of the process stages were then determined using the exergetic efficiencies and irreversibility values respectively. These estimates will enable industrialists and policy makers to take account of some of the ramifications of alternative bioethanol production routes in a low carbon future.


This research was partially funded by two separate UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Research Councils. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC), under the ‘Lignocellulosic Conversion to Ethanol’ (LACE) Programme [via Grant Ref: BB/G01616X/1] and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) [under Grant EP/N022645/1]. Both are concerned with the use of waste materials for worthwhile purposes: wheat straw for producing bioethanol in this case.

Professor Emeritus Geoffrey P Hammond
University of Bath

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This page is a summary of: A comparative thermodynamic evaluation of bioethanol processing from wheat straw, Applied Energy, August 2018, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2018.04.123.
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