DuPont Recruits 500 Farmers for Non-Food Biofuel Project
Next year DuPont plans to complete one of the first and biggest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world, which will make biofuel from corn stalks and leaves at this Nevada, Iowa construction site. (Source: DuPont)
I am sure your cost argument is valid but I wonder how much of that argument comes from a culture that is entrenched in how things have always been done and doesn't want to branch out and make the effort to do something new with the waste. I suppose it will take efforts like DuPont's (which I applaud, by the way) to see how this can be both environmentally and financially sound for all parties involved. Maybe you're right and it's policy that will change things and support this so it benefits the farmers as well.
Ann, don't get me wrong, but I still have to wonder about the economics of this. After one of your previous articles I was down on a farm here in Illinois. I asked the fatmer about it. He had significant corn stubble left in his fields. He was aware of the opportunity, but pointed out that he would have to bundle the stalks for them to be used. The indication was that it was not worth the cost. Costs include fuel, equipment wear and farmer time (and wear).
Getting the most from a raw material is very attractive from a social and environmental point of view. The problem comes in the economics. There was a recent article I saw about ethanol producers trying to get more out of the corn by developing secondary products. One was a protien that could be used to make plastics. So, even using the "leftovers" from a process, it turns out that it is cheaper to petroleum based products for the same purpose. These are the kind of engineering trade studies I have seen in a myriad of businesses.
It may take tax and environmental policies to tip the scales.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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