Research into the production of biofuels, such as ethanol and hydrogen, by direct cellulose fermentation is being done by Dr. Levin, together with Dr. Nazim Cicek (Biosystems Engineering) and Dr. Richard Sparling (Microbiology), by using a cellulolytic, anaerobic bacterium, Clostridium thermocellum. As this bacterium breaks down cellulosic biomass, such as agricultural residues (hemp hurds, flax shives, wheat straw), ethanol and H2 gas are produced. A pilot-scale bio-fermentor is used to test growth parameters of the bacteria.
Dr. Levin’s research focuses on understanding genetics of bacteria in order to develop strategies which would increase biofuel production, including ethanol, butanol, or hydrogen. Bacteria are cultured on various cellulosic substrates. Gas production is measured, and types of organic acids, alcohols, and sugars synthesized in the process are characterized.