Owing to technical improvements in the processes used to produce ethanol from biomass, construction of at least two waste-to-ethanol production plants in the United States is expected to start this year. Although there are a number of robust fermentation microorganisms available, initial pretreatment of the biomass and costly cellulase enzymes remain critical targets for process and cost improvements. A highly efficient, very low-acid pretreatment process is approaching pilot testing, while research on cellulases for ethanol production is expanding at both enzyme and organism level. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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