Biofuels: Cellulose Lab

Students will investigate how to optimally prepare a biofuel source for conversion to a combustible product. In a lab activity, students will break down cellulose from paper pulp to release the sugar component. The "releasing variable" will be tested. These include: water, cellulase, and rubbing alcohol. This activity models how the raw materials are refined to process liquid fuels.
Important: Please read the Biofuels: Cellulose Teacher Guide prior to using this laboratory activity. This guide provides you with all information for equipment and set up for this laboratory investigation.
1. Begin the class by asking the driving question: How is biomass processed to become a biofuel?

2. Tell students they will investigate how to prepare a biofuel source for conversion to a product that can be burned.

3. Divide students into groups of 4 (four). Distribute the Biofuels: Cellulose lab investigation sheet to students and instruct students to read through the procedure.

4. Show students how to mark measurements on their test tubes.

5. Ask students to make predictions then have them conduct the laboratory activity.

6. Have students make observations and form their explanations.

7. Have students evaluate their explanations. Instruct students to complete their investigation sheets.

8. Ask student groups to share their conclusions with the class and explain them.

9. Address any misconceptions students may have. Review and discuss aloud student responses to the analysis and conclusion items on the Biofuels: Cellulose lab investigation sheet. Ask students if they have any questions about concepts covered in the lesson and respond to their questions.

10. If students at the completion of the investigation do not understand that biofuel production may involve an enzymatic reaction to release sugars that are then fermented to create a fuel, modify instruction to ensure students understand this concept.

11. Have students reflect on what they have learned about nuclear energy, geothermal energy, and biofuels/biomass. Here are some suggestions: 
     a) Have students revisit their concept map and add additional information to it.
     b) Provide students with reflective questions to respond in their journals about nuclear energy, geothermal energy, and biofuels/biomass. 
          For example: Name two things you learned about nuclear power plants,
                               Name two things you learned about geothermal energy, or
                               How do biofuels/biomass provide energy?

Materials Needed:


(1) Biofuels: Cellulose Lab Teacher Guide (PDF / MS Word)

(2) Biofuels: Cellulose Lab Investigation Sheet (PDF / MS Word)

Assessment Information

Biofuels: Cellulose Lab Assessment (PDF / MS Word)

Teacher Resources/Content Support


Biofuels - Print Version (PDF)