University of Georgia researchers have developed a new technology that promises to dramatically increase the yield of ethanol from readily available non-food crops, including the waste from corn and sugarcane harvests, weeds such as bermudagrass, switchgrass and napiergrass and even garden waste.

The new technology features a fast, mild, acid-free pretreatment process that increases the amount of simple sugars released from inexpensive biomass for conversion to ethanol by at least 10 times.

Currently, woody biomass requires soaking under high pressure and temperatures in expensive, environmentally aggressive alkalis or acids before it is subjected to enzymes that digest it, producing simple sugars. The harsh pretreatment solutions must then be removed and disposed of.

The University of Georgia technology eliminates the expense of harsh pretreatment chemicals and their disposal. The technology is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation.