New process makes ethanol sustainable
Sweden’s University of Borås doctoral student Ramkumar Nair has shown it is possible to produce bioethanol from agricultural and industrial waste in existing plants in a socioeconomically sustainable way.
Nair said, “I have been verifying a process that we hope will work in an industrial scale, when it comes to using existing ethanol factories. Thanks to that process, the industry can become more sustainable and use agricultural or industrial waste for the production of bioethanol.”
Bioethanol is used for fuel for ethanol cars, among other things. Usually, wheat, sugar canes, or corn are used for ethanol production. In Sweden, wheat is the most common.
“But these are crops that could be used as human nutrition,” he said. “It is more sustainable if we could use waste to create fuel, and this is something we have been working on in several projects here at the University of Borås.
Nair explained that these research and pilots project where waste is used are called the second-generation ethanol processes, whereas the current industrial production is called the first generation ethanol process. Ramkumar has now verified a process that integrates the first and the second-generation ethanol processes.
“This means that agricultural residues, such as straw, bran, or the like could be used for making ethanol without making any major investments in the factories. All we need is already there. You can use the factories existing reactors. This also eliminates the burden of using foodstuff to produce vehicle fuel,” he said.
“What we added should not stop the fermentation,” said Nair. “After several tests, the choice was to add phosphoric acid. It is good for the animals that eat the leftovers and it gives good results in the ethanol fermentation process.”