Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are demonstrating that they can reduce ethanol fuel production costs by developing less expensive techniques for milling the corn used to make the fuel.

Computers are playing a key role in this research at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), in Wyndmoor, PA, where scientists have completed several computer research models for performing cost analyses for ethanol production.

One model can estimate the cost per gallon to produce ethanol with various processes. Another model helps estimate costs for making ethanol by dry-grind processes, in which corn kernels are converted into ethanol without salvaging fiber, germ (oil) and protein.

In addition to dry-grind models, ARS scientists have created what they believe will be the first publicly available corn wet milling process and cost model.

Developed in cooperation with the Corn Refiners Association and the University of Illinois, the model will be used to improve an ERRC wet milling process using unique enzymes. This process requires much less sulfur dioxide during the steeping stage of wet milling than traditional wet milling.