March 28, 2011
Everything from algae to used cooking oil is being considered as alternatives to gasoline. Professors and students at the U of A are taking a hard look at the sweetgum tree.
“It has a higher mileage per gallon than ethanol – similar to gasoline – and there’s a potential that it can be used in a conventional engine and shipped through existing pipelines,” said Nikki Lorenz, a senior chemical engineering student and member of the Honors College. The sweetgum tree is also fast-growing and and widely available in the southern U.S. – second in number only to the ubiquitous oak.
“We like to think we’re inventing a technology that can help the state of Arkansas,” said Jamie Hestekin, who is overseeing Nikki’s research. Nikki received a SURF grant to support her efforts to produce butanol from sweetgum. And it’s not easy! She describes the double fermentation hydrolysis process, which involves sulfuric acid and a hot sand bath, in an interview with Kyle Kellams that aired on KUAF 91.3 “Ozarks at Large” program on Tuesday, March 29, 2011.