Champagne yeast helps brew biofuel

By Peter Kent

BBrewing champagne yeastThe same yeast that plays a role in making champagne corks pop is helping brew renewable fuel from plants.

Clemson bioengineer Sarah Harcum ferments processed switchgrass, a plant easily grown in South Carolina, to make bioethanol. She is part of a Clemson-Savannah River National Laboratory team funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop biofuels that will decrease America's dependence on oil.

Switchgrass is a second-generation biofuel, which is a non-food crop used to make ethanol. The research team focuses on freeing the plant sugars from cellulose, which plants use for cell walls. Harcum then mixes champagne yeast and an enzyme with the plant sugars to brew bioethanol.

For information: Sarah Harcum, 864-656-6865,