1st Student's Major

Chemistry and Geology

1st Student's College

Science, Engineering and Technology

Students' Professional Biography

Justin Burum just graduated with a BS in biochemistry from Minnesota State University, Mankato and also holds a BA in biology from Gustavus Adolphus College. Justin has presented at the Sigma Xi Conference at Gustavus on “Thin-Section Evidence of a Sulphophilic Stage on Ancient Whale Falls”. At the 2008 URC, he gave an oral presentation titled “Characterization of Fall Leaves for Ethanol Production”. He has begun a master's degree at the University of North Dakota with Dr. Steven Ralph. His master's thesis will likely involve identifying genes that respond and defend the plant against insect foraging.

Mentor's Name

James Rife

Mentor's Email Address


Mentor's Department

Chemistry and Geology

Mentor's College

Science, Engineering and Technology


Ethanol is becoming increasingly popular as a fossil fuel additive or substitute. However, current production of ethanol from corn impacts food prices and appears to have an overall low net yield. New sources need to be identified and new processes developed for ethanol production. Cellulosic ethanol is one such new source. Plant material contains a large amount of cellulose and other polysaccharides which are potential feed stocks for ethanol production. The purpose of this experiment was to characterize the polysaccharide, lignin, and ash content of fall leaves to estimate their potential for ethanol production. A slight modification of the NREL procedure “Determination of Structural Carbohydrates and Lignin in Biomass” was used to characterize the leaves. Results of this analysis demonstrated that the leaves were composed of cellulose (23.8 +/- 1.6%), xylan (7.4+/- 0.7%), arabinan (7.9+/-0.8%), acid soluble lignin (22.3+/- 1.0%), acid insoluble lignin (27.6%), and acid insoluble ash (2.6%). It is estimated that approximately 60 gallons of ethanol could be produced per ton of leaf litter. In comparison to other cellulose sources, leaf litter has less sugars and will produce less ethanol. However, energy is already being expended to harvest leaf litter whereas addition energy would be consumed to harvest other cellulose sources.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.