Another Advance in Ethanol Production Efficiency

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ethanol production continues to become more efficient, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly. The following is another example of the continuous improvements in the industry. These are excerpts from an article by Holly Jessen (read the whole article here).

Harvesting Rhizopus oligosporus 
The ethanol production process results in five gallons of stillage for every gallon of ethanol produced. Although most of the solids are removed by centrifugation and are sold as distillers grains, the stillage does contain solids — organic compounds and enzymes. About 50 percent of the thin stillage is recycled back into the ethanol production, leaving the remainder to be evaporated and blended with distillers grains to make dried distillers grains with soluables (DDGS).

Researchers at Iowa State University, however, developed a process of adding a fungus (Rhizopus oligosporus) to the thin stillage, which grows into a thick mass in less than a day. About 60 percent of the organic material and most of the solids are removed, leaving cleaned water for the ethanol production process. The fungus is then harvested that is rich in protein, certain essential amino acids and other nutrients. It can be sold as a feed product or blended with DDGS to add value and make it more suitable for feeding hogs and chickens. “The animal feed/food created is of a much higher quality than the syrup condensed from thin stillage,” he said. “As the amino acid mix remedies some deficiencies in DDG, it could be used to add value. The ultimate benefit may be heading to the health food market or general nutrition.”

Researchers call the feed product MycoMeal. It’s bland tasting and quite healthy. “(It’s) much better than tofu as the fungal biomass, because of the filaments, has a structure like meat, resulting in a better mouth feel,” van Leeuwen said.

It’s a high-quality, high protein animal feed that could someday be sold as a low-cost food product for humans. Researchers are producing the fungus that, while growing in thin stillage from ethanol production, produces the new feed product and cleans the water, which can then be recycled back into the fuel production process.

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