More than 100 of the nation’s brightest young minds were welcomed to the fifth White House Science fair. In the past, innovative inventions, discoveries and science projects have been showcased.
Koehlmoos won first place in the Power, Structural and Technical Systems category at the 2014 National FFA Agriscience Fair, a special project of the National FFA Foundation that was sponsored by Cargill, Bayer CropScience, John Deere, PotashCorp and Syngenta. The fair was held during the National FFA Convention & Expo and featured the research and results of FFA members who plan on pursuing careers in the science and technology of agriculture. This accomplishment earned him the special White House invitation.
Koehlmoos’ project, “Grass to Gas,” consisted of three years of research with prairie cordgrass and switch grass and their potential impact in the cellulosic ethanol industry.
“Because I come from a farm background I was very interested in the biofuel industry and the new cellulosic ethanol plants being built near my house,” Koehlmoos said.
During his three years of research, Koehlmoos found that both grasses produce nearly 200 more gallons of ethanol per acre than corn and wheat straw, two mainstream methods for ethanol production. He also discovered that when both grasses are pretreated with calcium hydroxide, ethanol yields are increased by as much as 80 percent and produces a byproduct that has higher protein values than corn distiller grains.
Koehlmoos plans to continue his research in college and would ultimately like to use these grasses to commercially produce ethanol in the Southern Plains, which would provide a sustainable solution to importing foreign oil while also not competing with the food supply.