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In Pictures

A Biofuels Breakthough

Chemical engineers at UMass Amherst have discovered a small molecule that behaves the same as cellulose when it is converted to biofuel. Studying this ‘mini-cellulose’ molecule reveals for the first time the chemical reactions that take place in wood and prairie grasses during high-temperature conversion to biofuel. The "mini-cellulose" molecule, called α-cyclodextrin, solves one of the major roadblocks confronting high-temperature biofuels processes. Chemical engineer Paul Dauenhauer, leader of the research team, says the breakthrough achieved by studying the smaller surrogate molecule opens up the possibility of using computer simulations to study biomass. Learn more.

Photo credit: Dauenhauer Research Lab