A prototype plant produces 500 daily litres of bioethanol from corn processing waste


Maybe you remember the scene of “Back to the future” when Doc refuels the DeLorean with some banana peels and other organic waste. Although the year 2015 is not like the future of 2015 predicted in that movie, some things are changing and now the organic waste can be processed to obtain bioethanol, a clean fuel substitute.


The waste employed is from processing corn with high content of starch, cellulose and hemicellulose.

In this regard Lorena Amaya Delgado, from the Department of Industrial Biotechnology at CIATEJ, explains that a process of hydrolysis of carbohydrates in waste from the food industry was developed, and ideal fermentation conditions were established to produce bioethanol at laboratory and pilot plant levels on the premises of the center, which is part of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

“With the information obtained from this research, the basic engineering of the ethanol production process was carried out, as well as advice for installing a pilot plant focused on the production of bioethanol from grain waste from the food industry,” explains the specialist.

For this project, CIATEJ researchers used hydrolytic enzymes and yeasts with high tolerance to ethanol. Which implied that fermentations were performed with high concentrations of sugars to generate more efficient processes.

Especial equipment for those processes were also designed, to improve efficiency and performance.

This research project initiated by the need of a company in the food industry, which generates significant amounts of waste corn. In this context, CIATEJ gave support with a group of researchers and engineers to give an specific biotech answer.

“Although it was a project designed at the request of a company, the technology can be adapted to different waste from the food industries of the country, such as the bakery, dairy and fruit processing sectors, among others,” says Lorena Amaya Delgado.

The research on innovative and sustainable technology for the production of bioenergy from food industry’s waste, was the result of a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional work, where the CICIMAR center of the IPN participated, as well as the Conacyt center CIBNOR. Both focused on different branches of the project other than the production of ethanol.


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