August 03, 2008

New Process Could Improve Ethanol Yields

OptiSwitch Technology has developed a new process that could improve ethanol yields by 5 percent or more. The new process uses technology similar to an electroporation system used in the medical field to poke holes in cells allowing medicines to work better.

Navapanich says the new technology the company has developed is high power silicon switches that can handle 100,000 amps and volts to perform the process on a large scale. “In this case, we have built a machine that will poke holes in the corn kernels, causing permanent or temporary damage to the cell walls, increasing permeability and allowing the starch to come out and be more accessible to the enzymes,” he said. “We took the mash that would normally go to an ethanol plant and ran it through our system. Low and behold, we got more fermentable sugars out of it.”

This technology also has possible uses in the biodiesel industry as a way to extract oil from algae.

Navapanic said OptiSwitch Technology has been working with Arizona State University to perform experiments running algae through the same electroporation process as it did corn. “In one case, it showed that once we treated the algae, all the lipids came out by themselves,” he said. “Usually after the treatment we go back to see how many remain by viewing the algae underneath a microscope—but in this instance, there wasn’t any left. That means it all came out. It’s another area that looks very promising.”

Source : Ethanol Producer Magazine

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