Eric Koehlmoos appears with his Grass to Gas research at the 2015 White House Science Fair
Eric Koehlmoos, a Career and Technical Education student and member of the National FFA Organization was recognized at the 2015 White House Science Fair that was held on March 26 for his “Grass to Gas” project. Eric, 18, is a member of the South O’Brien FFA Chapter in Paulina, Iowa. He was invited to participate in the Fair that celebrates the accomplishments of student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions throughout the United States.
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.
Eric Koehlmoos stands in front of the White House during his visit to Washington, D.C.
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.