JackSaddler 1113Renowned researcher Jack Saddler from the University of British Columbia, Canada, came to Sweden to evaluate and celebrate the new results on the biorefining of lignocellulose. These were contained in a doctoral thesis by Adnan Cavka, Bio4Energy researcher at Umeå University. Photo by Bio4Energy.

Bio4Energy researchers have invented a method for making ethanol from cellulose from trees using enzymes, which is designed to reduce costs and so to provide for industrial production of bioethanol on a commercial scale. The process has been patented and means the patent holder, the Swedish clean-technology company SEKAB, has a new energy-efficient method to integrate with the technologies it has been using in its efforts to scale up production of bioethanol from woody raw materials at the Sweden-based Domsjö Fabriker biorefinery of Aditya Birla.

The research results also include a further attempt at cost cutting and reduction of the environmental impact of producing bioethanol. Instead of drawing on enzymes made in a synthetic medium, which are often expensive, the researchers tried several ways of making enzymes themselves, by letting a type of filamentous fungi feast on biorefinery waste streams such as fibrous sewage sludge or stillage. The latter takes the form of a dark brown liquid broth, smelling of a coniferous tree’s sweet resin, with notes of acidic vinegar and burnt sugar. Lead researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., of the B4E Biochemical Platform, said that the type of fungi used might not be the best suited one for the purpose, but that the researchers wanted to “try and see if it worked”.

And it certainly did. With the new method, the researchers were able to make similar or greater amounts ethanol compared with the reference medium used, which was refined white sugar. Cavka, who spends much of his working week at Umeå University’s laboratories at the B4E partner SP Processum at Örnsköldsvik, said that his research group was planning to investigate further which combination of yeast and residual bio-based material should be recommended for commercial upscale. But that would be for next year, when Cavka becomes a postdoctoral researcher in B4E, he said.

As far as the new method for making bioethanol via the enzymatic route went, it was “ready to use, technically speaking”, Cavka said.

“The question now is how much can be gained from using it. This issue will have to be evaluated a bit further”, Cavka concluded.

The patented method involves the use of inexpensive industrial chemicals.  

The Bio4Energy strategic partner SP Processum commissioned a short video film about the recent findings, with a Swedish speaker voice belonging to the Bio4Energy researcher Adnan Cavka. Published with permission.

Cavka defended his doctoral thesis Biorefining of lignocellulose: Detoxification of inhibitory hydrolysates and potential utilisation of residual streams for production of enzymes 29 November 2013 at Umeå University.

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