"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 .





Is the Grass Really Greener?

Teacher Infomation:Susan Stoll

Pine River Middle School


Unit OverviewThis unit will introduce students to the concept of biomass fuel as an alternative to fossil fuels. Students will take part in small group discussions about the effects of different types of energy. Through hands-on activities and research, students will create a combustible alcohol product from pretreated biomass material.  After lecture and research, students will engage in discussions comparing and contrasting biomass fuels to traditional fossil fuels.

Target Grade Level: Eighth Grade Earth Science

Download Unit Outline & Timeline

Download RET Research Poster

Lesson Plans:
Lesson One: How do renewable and nonrenewable energy sources comparatively affect humans and the environment?

Students will work in small groups to draw upon their prior knowledge of both renewable and nonrenewable energy sources. Within their group they will discuss the positive and negative effects of each source with regard to availability, uses, and impacts upon humans and the environment.  Each group will then create a poster depicting these factors and post on the white board.

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Lesson Two: Introduction to a Greener Fuel: How is fuel created from biomass material?

This lesson is a basic introduction to how biomass fuels are former from plant material and the environmental advantages of renewable biomass fuels.

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Lesson Three*: Enzymatic Hydrolysis Lab: How does the pretreatment process affect the ability of enzymatic hydrolysis to breakdown biomass to form glucose?

Students will begin the first step in the conversion process of lignin-cellulose feedstock to ethanol.  In this lab students will use a prepared enzyme solution and heat to begin the breakdown of the pretreated wood to form glucose.  Students will also compare the amount of glucose produced by pretreated aspen, pretreated poplar, and aspen that has not been pretreated.

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Lesson Four*: Fermentation of Glucose Lab: What by-product will be produced by the fermentation of glucose by yeast?

Students will proceed to the second step in the conversion process of glucose to ethanol.  This lab will use a prepared glucose solution which will be fermented by yeast organisms.  The fermentation process will produce a form of ethanol.

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Lesson Five*: Distillation Lab: How does distillation improve the combustion capabilities of ethanol fermented from glucose?

This is the third step in the conversion process of pretreated biomass to ethanol. In this lesson students will be comparing the combustibility of the hydrolyzate from the previous lab both before and after distillation.  The distillation will purify the ethanol solution making it burn better.

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*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.


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