Termites Provide Potential Ethanol Source

ZeaChem, a company that uses the microbes in termite guts to make ethanol, has raised $34 million to build its first plant, according to CNet News.

The biorefinery, which could be located in Boardman, OR, will begin operating next year, making 1.5 million gallons of ethanol a year from a non-food feedstock, such as wood chips or grasses, according to ZeaChem CEO James Imbler.

CNet News reports that there are a number of research initiatives and a few companies working with the micro-organisms in termites’ digestive tracts to make fuel or other chemicals. ZeaChem has developed a process to make ethanol from these bugs, rather than try to develop new yeasts or bacteria as start-ups like Mascoma or Genomatica are doing. It also intends to use existing industrial equipment, lowering the technology risk involved.

(Source: CNet News)

 

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