The Honda Worldwide Ethanol Site: Technological details and products using Honda's ethanol engine technology
RITE-Honda bio-ethanol production technology using inedible plant materials enters feasibility research stage.
Since biomass comes from plants that have captured their constituent carbon from atmospheric CO2 via photosynthesis, bio-ethanol derived from biomass has no net affect on atmospheric CO2 when burned. Bio-ethanol is therefore an important energy resource in the fight against global warming, but current production processes utilize the edible sugar and starch found in sugar cane, maize and other plants, putting ethanol and food producers in competition for raw materials and potentially destabilizing the balance between food and fuel production. As a result, a bio-ethanol production process that utilizes rice straw, grain chaff, maize stalks and other inedible soft-biomass*1 derived from agricultural waste would be highly desirable.
Announcing the results in 2006, the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) and Honda established the basic technology to produce bio-ethanol fuel from the cellulose and hemicellulose found in such soft-biomass sources as nice straw and other inedible plant leaves and stalks. Cellulose and hemicellulose are the primary ingredients of the fibrous part of plants, composing two-thirds of natural vegetable materials. Conventional technology was insufficient to utilize cellulose for alcohol production, since it produced inhibitors that disrupted the conversion process. In contrast, the new RITE-Honda technology—the world's first process of its type to produce bio-ethanol in volume—uses Honda engineering and the RITE strain of microorganisms to convert sugar into alcohol with minimal disruption by inhibitors.
In April 2010, the Fundamental Technology Research Center of Honda R&D Co., Ltd. began operations at a new Kazusa Branch Facility in Kazusa Academia Park*2 in Kisarazu, Chiba. With a view to commercializing RITE-Honda bio-ethanol production technology, the new facility is undertaking high-precision research using large-scale equipment.
*1 Biomass is a renewable organic resource derived from living organisms, excluding fossil resources. In a narrower sense, the term may refer to livestock excreta, waste wood and plant residue after the removal of edible parts.
*2 Kazusa Akademia Park combines R&D, teaching, conference, production and resort facilities in one unified complex.