Nareen Melkonian
Feb 16, 2012

Study of biomass with computer simulations made possible by discovery of new molecule

University of Massachusetts Amherst chemical engineer researchers have discovered a new molecule, dubbed the ‘mini-cellulose’ molecule, that allows scientists to potentially study biomass using computer simulations; it has the same properties that cellulose has when it is converted into biofuel. Scientifically known as a-cyclodextrin, ‘mini cellulose’ molecule has -- for the first time ever -- allowed scientists to observe the chemical reactions in wood and prairie grasses during high-temperature conversions to biofuel. Pyrolysis and gasification, for example, are high-temperature biofuel processes that offer challenges for scientists trying to study them. ‘Mini-cellulose’ molecule, however, has cleared up one of those major challenges. Most importantly, the chemical engineers behind this study announced that the simulation of the chemical reactions in real cellulose would have taken about 10,000 years, but now will only take about a month.