EGEE 439
Alternative Fuels from Biomass Sources

Lesson 6: Processing to Produce Ethanol and Butanol from Carbohydrates and Enzymes

Lesson 6: Processing to Produce Ethanol and Butanol from Carbohydrates and Enzymes


The previous lesson covered the final project, the composition of various carbohydrates, and the enzymes necessary for the conversion of cellulose (to glucose), hemicellulose, and lignin. That’s just the initial step for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass. This lesson will cover the process necessary to convert starch into smaller units (like glucose) as well as the entire processing required to produce ethanol. Once glucose is produced, the production of ethanol is the same, whether beginning with starch or cellulose. In a separate section, we will also discuss the production of butanol (a four-carbon chain alcohol) rather than ethanol (a two-carbon chain alcohol); this will include why we might want to convert to butanol.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • explain similarities and differences between sugar-based and starch-based ethanol production as well as butanol production;
  • describe the differences between wet and dry milling of corn;
  • explain process steps in dry milling ethanol and butanol production;
  • identify important co-products from corn ethanol and butanol production;
  • evaluate the largest factors that affect the economics of ethanol and butanol production.

Road Map

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and assignment due dates.


If there is anything in the lesson materials that you would like to comment on or don't quite understand, please post your thoughts and/or questions to our Throughout the Course Questions and Comments discussion forum. The discussion forum will be checked regularly. While you are there, feel free to post responses to your classmates if you are able to help. Regular office hours will be held to provide help for EGEE 439 students.