(587b) Advantages of Thermophilic Hydrogen Production From Lignocellulosic Biomass
Hydrogen (H2) is considered the energy of the future and an ideal alternative fuel to the current energy scenario due to its high energy content (143 MJ/Kg) which is 5.3-fold and 3.3-fold higher than that of ethanol and gasoline, respectively. Another major advantage of H2 compared to other fuels is in its completely non-polluting nature – as a carbon-free fuel there are no greenhouse gas emissions as water is the only product. The current demand for H2 only in the U.S. is about 9 million tons per annum and demand continues to grow rapidly. About 95% of H2 is currently produced via steam reforming of methane, however, this process has many disadvantages, including generation of greenhouse gas emissions. An environmentally friendly and potentially viable alternative for sustainable H2 production is presented through the utilization of renewable lignocellulosic biomass such as switchgrass (SWG) and waste including municipal solid waste (MSW). SWG is viewed as one of the most promising energy crops for the U.S. conditions, and its production is predicted to significantly increase (up to 10-times) within the next 10 years. The handling and disposal of MSW is of growing global concern as waste generated world-wide continues to increase. MSW contains approximately 60% of biodegradable material such as food waste, yard trimmings, paper and cardboards which can be utilized to produce value-added products. Production of H2 from renewable resources would reduce dependence on fossil fuels, enhance energy security, contribute to the effort of preventing global warming, and alleviate the acute and growing pollution problem in broad perspectives. Although the biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to H2 has recently received considerable attention, further research breakthrough is needed to make the process cost efficient. This presentation will focus on the major challenges and obstacles that currently preclude commercialization of biological hydrogen production such as direct utilization of biomass, stochiometric H2 yields, formation of by-products, etc. The advantages of utilizing new thermophilic microorganisms for hydrogen production will be discussed. Results on biohydrogen production from SWG and MSW utilizing new thermophilic microorganisms isolated from the Yellowstone National Park in WY will be presented and the potential benefits will be reviewed.