"Wood to Wheels" - Research Experience for High School Teachers in Sustainable Transportation Technologies


Sustainable Futures Institute
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931

Phone: 906.487.3612
Fax: 906.487.2943
e-mail: sfi@mtu.edu

Enzymatic hydrolysis of aspen wood chips.

Fermentation of glucose to ethanol by yeast .

Distallation of ethanol in Dr. Shonnard's labratory at MTU.

Enzymatic hydrolysis of aspen woqCombustion of ethanol .







Use of Biofuels and Alternative Energy Sources

Teacher Infomation:Sheri Kopka

Mercer School District


Unit Overview

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the importance of sustainable energy sources in addressing future energy
  • Explain the importance of using alternative fuel sources in the future
  • Convert biomass to ethanol using enzymes, fermentation, and distillation.
  • Analyze the costs/benefits of alternative fuels.

This unit can be easily modified to fit the standards of many science classes.

Target Grade Level: High School Environmental Science

Download Unit Outline & Timeline

Download RET Research Poster

Lesson Plans:
Lesson One:What is the relationship between climate change and biofuels?

Students will explore the link between climate change and the production and use of  biofuels. They will explore solutions that can help the climate change problem. They will investigate alternative fuel sources that do not contribute to the global climate change problem.

Download Lesson One Plans

Lesson Two: How can biomass be converted to ethanol?

The students will be able to explain how biomass can be converted in to a fuel source for vehicle use.

Download Lesson Two Plans

Lesson Three*: How do we breakdown cellulose into glucose?

Students will use pretreated biomass and perform enzymatic hydrolysis to obtain glucose for fermentation into ethanol.

Download Lesson Three Plans

Lesson Four*: How can glucose be transformed into ethanol?

Students will be able to describe how the glucose produced in their previous experiment on enzymatic hydrolysis can be used to produce ethanol for use as an alternative fuel. Students will understand the process of fermentation and how glucose is changed into ethanol.

Download Lesson Four Plans

Lesson Five*: How can a solution of ethanol and water be separated?

Students will perform a distillation using the products of their fermentation reaction in the previous lesson. Students will produce a small amount of purified ethanol after their distillation which can be burned in a watch glass or alcohol burner.

Download Lesson Five Plans

Lesson Six : What else needs to be considered when evaluating the cost/benefits of alternative fuels?

Students will explore the cost/benefits of the use of alternative fuels sources as a whole. They will be able to describe a supply chain and how the supply chain costs add to the cost/benefit of an alternative fuel.

Download Lesson Six Plans

*Please contact the author teacher or Dr. David Shonnard at drshonna@mtu.edu if you are interested in the kits and the accompaning JSA's desgined at MTU that are used in these lessons.


Home || Lesson Plans  || Year 1 2011 Summary || Year 2 2012 Summary  || Year 3 2013 Summary