Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Researchers Convert 'Beer' into a Better-than-ethanol Biofuel

Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Bookmark and Share
At Cornell, researchers are turning beer into biofuel.

It's not the beer that's good to drink -- but fermentation broth, which is chemically identical to the imbibing beer, from which the fuel ethanol is produced.

Using a mixed bag of microbes for specific chemical reactions, biological engineers have designed a process for upgrading ethanol into something even better -- caproic acid, a carboxylic acid that's a versatile fuel precursor. If scaled up, their process could integrate seamlessly into already-established ethanol production lines.

Largus Angenent, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering, led the study, which was published online June 13 by the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy and Environmental Science. The journal has promoted it as a "hot paper."

Ethanol is already a widely used biofuel, but it is expensive to produce because it is water soluble and requires distillation -- an energy-intensive industrial process.

Usually made from corn in the United States, ethanol is produced in large reactors to ferment: enzymes convert cornstarch to sugar, and yeast converts the sugar to ethanol. Chemically identical to beer (and called that in the industry), the broth is not palatable -- drinkable beer has had the yeast filtered out, for starters.

Angenent's group biologically converted ethanol into n-caproic acid using only beer with dilute ethanol. Their microbial mix then converted 2-carbon units into 6-carbon chain acids.

"With fuels you want to have pretty long carbon chains," Angenent said. "Ethanol has two carbons, and you can run a car on that but not a plane -- it's not dense enough."

Caproic acid's advantages over ethanol are many: It's hydrophobic -- it resembles oil droplets -- making it easier to separate from water in the purification process. It's also versatile, with potential use in such diverse applications as animal feed, or as an anti-microbial agent.

The researchers used donated buckets of fermented beer broth from a nearby corn ethanol plant, Western New York Energy, for their experiments. In the lab, they set up 5-liter tanks as the reactors. They mixed the fermentation broth with what biological engineers call an open microbial community -- a sort of mixed bag of billions of microbes of different species, like those found in the human gut. Some of these species can be identified with gene sequencing, but not everything in the microbe community is known.

A key discovery was figuring out how to control the pH and temperature of the broth, so that by extracting the caproic acid simultaneously with production, the researchers could produce enough acid without sacrificing any by conversion to methane.

Scientists had doubted that an open community like this could make anything useful besides methane, but Angenent is showing that's not the case.

"We can shape the community in any way to make the products we want," he said.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Genetics Used to Improve Plants for Bioenergy
An upcoming genetics investigation into the symbiotic association between soil fungi and feedstock plants for bioenergy production could lead to more efficient uptake of nutrients, which would help limit the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Pest Attacks Can Lead to Bigger Crop Yields
New project receive three-year funding of $498,000 from USDA.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Algal Genes May Boost Efficiency, Yield in Staple Crops
New research has taken a step toward employing genes from blue-green algae to improve staple crop photosynthesis.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Study to Focus on Rice Genes, Yield and Climate
Cornell researchers received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study relationships among rice genetics, crop yields and climate.
Thursday, May 01, 2014
New Alfalfa Variety Resists Ravenous Local Pest
The new variety has some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle which has ravaged alfalfa fields.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Predators Delay Pest Resistance to Bt Crops
Crops genetically modified with the bacterium Bt(Bacillus thuringiensis) produce proteins that kill pest insects.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Shark, Human Proteins are Surprisingly Similar
Despite widespread fascination with sharks, the world’s oldest ocean predators have long been a genetic mystery.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Surprises Discovered in Decoded Kiwifruit Genome
DNA sequence of the kiwifruit has many genetic similarities between its 39,040 genes and other plant species, including potatoes and tomatoes.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Produce Perfect: Biotech Sweet Corn goes Unblemished
With the kernel-loving earworm, producing unblemished ears of sweet corn is difficult.
Monday, October 14, 2013
New Micro Water Sensor Can Aid Growers
Crop growers, wine grape and other fruit growers, food processors and even concrete makers all benefit from water sensors for accurate, steady and numerous moisture readings.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Partnership Homes in on Regenerative Medicine
Scientists are to advance healing techniques and technologies for animals and humans.
Friday, October 04, 2013
Using Genes to Rescue Animal and Plants from Extinction
With estimates of losing 15 to 40 percent of the world’s species over the next four decades researchers whether science should employ genetic engineering to the rescue.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Senator to Tout Cornell Food Safety, Dairy Expertise to Feds
Cornell University is positioned to be a national center of excellence in dairy and food safety.
Monday, September 09, 2013
'Fountain of Youth’ for Leaves Discovered
A team has identified an enzymatic fountain of youth that slows the process of leaf death.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Scientific News
Cell Aging Slowed by Putting Brakes on Noisy Transcription
Experiments in yeast hint at ways to extend life of some human cells.
How a Kernel Got Naked and Corn Became King
Ten thousand years ago, a golden grain got naked, brought people together and grew to become one of the top agricultural commodities on the planet.
TOPLESS Plants Provide Clues to Human Molecular Interactions
Scientists at Van Andel Research Institute have revealed an important molecular mechanism in plants that has significant similarities to certain signaling mechanisms in humans, which are closely linked to early embryonic development and to diseases such as cancer.
New Technique for Mining Health-conferring Soy Compounds
A new procedure devised by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to extract lunasin from soybean seeds could expedite further studies of this peptide for its cancer-fighting potential and other health benefits.
Rice Disease-Resistance Discovery Closes the Loop for Scientific Integrity
Researchers reveal how disease resistant rice detects and responds to bacterial infections.
Pesticide Found in 70 Percent of Massachusetts’ Honey Samples
New Harvard University study says that the pesticide commonly found in honey samples is implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder.
Oxitec ‘Self-Limiting Gene’ Offers Hope for Controlling Invasive Moth
A new pesticide-free and environmentally-friendly way to control insect pests has moved ahead with the publication of results showing that Oxitec diamondback moths (DBM) with a ‘self-limiting gene’ can dramatically reduce populations of DBM.
More Rice, Less Greenhouse Gas?
An international group from China, Sweden and the U.S. has unveiled a genetically modified super rice that has more starch, yet releases a fraction of the harmful gas methane.
Kiwi Bird Genome Sequenced
The kiwi, national symbol of New Zealand, gives insights into the evolution of nocturnal animals.
Yeast Cells Use Signaling Pathway to Modify Their Genomes
Researchers at the Babraham Institute and Cambridge Systems Biology Centre, University of Cambridge have shown that yeast can modify their genomes to take advantage of an excess of calories in the environment and attain optimal growth.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!