Yan Zhang

Director of Research (National Corn to Ethanol Research Center)

Session: Speaker – The Future of Ethanol Production: Corn Kernel Fiber Analytics Panel

Topic: Scientific Resources to Help with the Evaluation of in situ Corn to Ethanol Conversion

Summary: To accurately quantify the levels of starch and cellulose in corn matrix samples is very challenging, however, there are numerous ways to verify the accuracy of those analytical methods. Conducting 100% corn starch based flask fermentation, will provide samples to verify the accuracy of the cellulose method. Conducting starch and cellulose based flask fermentation, will provide samples to verify both starch and cellulose methods. When it comes to test cellulose content in after conversion samples, the cell wall in yeast biomass could provide error to the accuracy of cellulose testing, if the analytical method involves converting beta glucan in the yeast cell wall to glucose.

With strong analytical methods in house, we have evaluated in situ flask fermentation with or without mild pretreatment, and we were able to decide how much ethanol increase likely came from starch conversion and how much from cellulose conversion.


Dr. Zhang, Director of Research/Research Associate Professor at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, received her Ph.D in analytical chemistry from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Since, she worked at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as an environmental chemist, and she also worked at a pharmaceutical company as an R&D analytical chemist. Her research at NCERC includes corn to ethanol production, nutritional and risk factors in DDGS, and other biofuel related subjects. Recently, her team has modified certain existing analytical methods for starch and cellulose testing in corn matrix material, and come up with improved approaches.