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Toyota reveals breakthrough in cellulosic ethanol production

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) today held an event at its Toyota Biotechnology and Afforestation Laboratory in Aichi revealing a newly developed yeast that increases the production yield of cellulosic ethanol bio-fuel, new technologies for the greening of parking lots and walls, and a new “cool-spot creation methodology” for simulating and analyzing the effects of greening.
Posted: October 3, 2011 - 4:56PM
Author: Don Bain

TMC, using gene recombination technology, has developed a new strain of yeast promising to play an important role in the fermentation process for producing cellulosic ethanol.

Fermentation of xylose, a sugar produced when plant fibers are broken down in the enzymatic saccharification process, is difficult to achieve with naturally occurring yeasts. TMC’s newly developed yeast not only efficiently ferments xylose but is also resistant to fermentation-inhibiting substances such as acetic acid. Consequently this newly developed strain of yeast achieves one of the highest ethanol fermentation density levels in the world at roughly 47 grams per liter and is expected to improve bio-fuel yields while significantly reducing production costs.

In their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and respond to the need for energy diversity, TMC is working on renewable energy sources such as bio-fuels. They are focusing on cellulosic ethanol, produced from non-edible plants having significantly less impact on world food supplies.

Research is underway to develop comprehensive technologies for producing cellulosic ethanol, including raw material pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification and yeast fermentation. Aiming to achieve production-cost parity with other liquid fuels such as gasoline, TMC is striving to achieve a stable supply of raw-material plant fibers as well as methods reducing production costs.

Ultimately, TMC plans to further improve bio-fuel production yield to realize its goal of commercializing cellulosic ethanol by 2020.

In addition, to reduce the effects of the urban heat-island phenomenon, TMC is working on urban greening of both the rooftop and indoor variety. Two newly developed urban greening products – Smart Green Parking and a new wire-based Smart Green Wall – will be sold through the Toyota Roof Garden Corporation, starting today. The company hopes to meet a wider range of urban greening needs through this expansion of its greening product line.

Smart Green Parking is composed with main panels made of bricks and path-reinforcement material plus green plants – TMC’s TM9 grass, Ophiopogon japonicus Ker-Gawler (dwarf Japanese snake's beard), thyme, moss phlox and so on.

The system utilizes recycled car bumper materials to create an earthen base wide enough to allow a durable space for long lasting plant growth while specially developed blocks ensure both plant sustainability and surface safety.

This approach achieves temperature of 95°F on sunny summer days, 27°F cooler than asphalt surfaces which can reach 122°F.

Smart Green Wall systems consist of wire rolls, wire tension and end adjusters supporting climbing plants in a low-maintenance permanent installation.
Lightweight ladder-shaped wires are easily climbed by plants and are very simple to install on buildings. Wire tension adjustment functions reduce wind-caused fluttering, creating high wind resistance.

On hot, sunny summer days, the plants reduce electricity use for indoor air conditioning by approximately 25% compared to a building without green walls. It also creates an indoor temperature of 89.6°F, 18°F cooler than a building without green walls.

TMC’s Toyota Biotechnology and Afforestation Laboratory is also developing "cool-spot creation technology" for simulating the effects of greening and predicting the cooling effects of shade and transpiration created by trees. In conjunction with Tokyo Institute of Technology, TMC developed a method of accurately measuring the amount of transpiration from trees and is building a model for predicting the surface temperature effect of trees. Through use of this model together with thermal environmental simulators, they hope to achieve a visual simulation of greening effects to determine the types, numbers, and placement of trees needed to achieve the desired cooling effect. This cool spot formation technology is aimed for commercialization by the end of 2012.