Research Brief: Students’ understanding of the carbon cycle and global climate change

Global climate change is a serious problem that requires the involvement of a scientifically literate public to solve. But what does the public understand about this complex issue and its relationship to the combustion of fossil fuels?

We have been investigating this question by studying how incoming freshmen at Michigan State University make sense of standard representations of the global carbon cycle. The incoming freshmen represent the college-bound public who have high school degrees. We asked them about the carbon cycle because the carbon cycle explains the cause of global climate change – the addition of CO2 into the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels – and provides a framework for evaluating options for its mitigation.

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Biofuels vs Fossil Fuels Unit

The Biofuels vs Fossil Fuels unit has students explore the similarities and differences between fossil fuels and biofuels. In the process, students investigate the carbon-transforming processes of combustion, photosynthesis, fermentation and respiration. They apply their knowledge of these processes to the global carbon cycle to examine how use of fossil fuels and biofuels have different effects on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and consequently global climate change. Students use their understanding of the global carbon cycle to study the claim that biofuels, such as ethanol made from plant material, can help reduce the rate of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In addition, students examine the environmental impact of biofuels agriculture.

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Bioenergy Classroom Materials

Various classroom materials for testing and experimenting with Bioenergy including:

  • Mini Fermenter
  • Measuring Soil Microbial Activity
  • Bioprospecting for Cellulose-Degrading Microbes: Filter Paper Assay Method
  • Bioprospecting for Cellulose-Degrading Microbes: Individual Isolate Method

And more.

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STEM and OPERATION BioenergizeME

OPERATION BioenergizeME is the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO’s) education base camp for students and educators and anyone seeking to better understand the promises and challenges in developing a thriving bioeconomy. OPERATION BioenergizeME has a three-fold mission:

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Butanol production from lignocellulosic biomass: revisiting fermentation performance indicators with exploratory data analysis

After just more than 100 years of history of industrial acetone–butanol–ethanol (ABE) fermentation, patented by Weizmann in the UK in 1915, butanol is again today considered a promising biofuel alternative based on several advantages compared to the more established biofuels ethanol and methanol. Large-scale fermentative production of butanol, however, still suffers from high substrate cost and low product titers and selectivity. There have been great advances the last decades to tackle these problems. However, understanding the fermentation process variables and their interconnectedness with a holistic view of the current scientific state-of-the-art is lacking to a great extent. To illustrate the benefits of such a comprehensive approach, we have developed a dataset by collecting data from 175 fermentations of lignocellulosic biomass and mixed sugars to produce butanol that reported during the past three decades of scientific literature and performed an exploratory data analysis to map current trends and bottlenecks. This review presents the results of this exploratory data analysis as well as main features of fermentative butanol production from lignocellulosic biomass with a focus on performance indicators as a useful tool to guide further research and development in the field towards more profitable butanol manufacturing for biofuel applications in the future.

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Butanol is an alcohol that can be used as a transport fuel. It is a higher member of the series of straight chain alcohols with each molecule of butanol (C4H10O) containing four carbon atoms rather than two as in ethanol.

Butanol was tradionally produced by ABE fermentation - the anaerobic conversion of carbohydrates by strains of Clostridium into acetone, butanol and ethanol. However, cost issues, the relatively low-yield and sluggish fermentations, as well as problems caused by end product inhibition and phage infections, meant that ABE butanol could not compete on a commercial scale with butanol produced synthetically and almost all ABE production ceased as the petrochemical industry evolved.

However, there is now increasing interest in use of biobutanol as a transport fuel. 85% Butanol/gasoline blends can be used in unmodified petrol engines. It can be transported in existing gasoline pipelines and produces more power per litre than ethanol. Biobutanol can be produced from cereal crops, sugar cane and sugar beet, etc, but can also be produced from cellulosic raw materials.

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What you need to know about plant-based plastics

More than eighteen trillion pounds of plastic have been produced to date, and eighteen billion pounds of plastic flows into the ocean every year. It ensnares the marine animals we cherish and the fish we put on our plates, it appears in the table salt we use, and it’s even found in our own bodies.

As more research on the impact of using so much plastic comes to light, consumers and manufacturers are left scrambling for an alternative to the ubiquitous material, and bioplastics have emerged as a potential alternative.

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Plastics have become a problem - here is a potential solution

Each year more than 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured; with over half intended for single-use application. While recycling offers some relief, plastic waste totaling more than half the global population ends up in landfills or polluting our waterways, beaches, and open areas.

Ecological Fibers prides itself on how we approach our manufacturing processes. When it comes to the environment, we’ve never settled for the easy solution if it was detrimental to the earth. When we realized the potential health ramifications of using solvents, we didn’t reduce the number of solvents we used, we removed solvents altogether, becoming the first covering materials company to do so. Now, we’ve set our eyes on plastics.

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Why Sustainable Supplement Bottles Are A Must

Every year, we celebrate Earth Day. This day is an opportunity for us to take a moment to appreciate this beautiful planet we call home. Earth day also gives us the chance to reflect on how our choices have impacted the world around us. Being one human on a planet full of billions of people can make the idea that one person can change the world difficult to believe. It seems so impossible that we are capable of making a difference. However, small changes add up over time to make a big difference. Because this idea has caught on, people are more focused now than ever on making better choices. As people look to more sustainable choices, businesses must also think about how they affect the planet. One of the ways this happens is via transitioning to items such as sustainable supplement bottles.

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