A blog from University of Borås

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ethanol from stillage goes commercial in Sweden using Indonesian fungi

Ethanol with a production of close to 90 billion liters is the largest product of biotechnology in term of the volumes. Ethanol concentration is generally around 10-11% that goes to distillations and ethanol is separated from the slurry named "stillage".  It means we have close to 900 million m3 of stillage per year in the world. The stillage contains about 10% solid materials.

We have worked several years to produce ethanol and animal feed from this stillage. We used an edible fungus that is originated from Indonesia in a food named "oncom". In has been developed in our lab and examined in large scale at the ethanol plant Agroetanol. They are now planning to use it commercially. It is exciting for both the company and also our research group that developed the process. This news was published in the Swedish newspaper NyTeknik a few days ago.

(The fungus Neurospora that gives the orange color in the food)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pop rice, rice film and rice husk!

In Vietnam, rice with a production of about 40 million tons, is one of the most important income in rural areas and also export for the country. In addition to rice as final production, rice in Vietnam is also converted to other products. Rice films and pop rice are two products (you might have heard about pop corn, but not pop rice) When producing these products, rice husk is used as fuel, and then its ash is used as fertilizer to the rice fields. It means no waste but total recycling! Here are some photos about these processes that I took in Mekong delta:

- Producing rice films (that is then used to roll with vegetables as a tasty food):

- For pop rice, sand is first heated up by burning the husk, then rice (with its husk) is mixed with it and you get immediately the rice pop mixed with husk and sand. Then, it is screened to separate the sand and husk:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Global access to water and sanitation

Water and Energy are critical issues in the world now. In the last few decades, we had many conflicts and wars in different regions in the world about these two topics. When it comes to water, the story become more scary, considering the global warming. We hear nowadays that California has shortage of water. But the same story is already known from Africa, Middle East, Spain, India, Pakistan, etc.

On the other hand, according to World Bank Data, we consumed 66 billion m3 water in 2010 and this consumption is going to be doubled (122 billion m3) in 2035. It means that water is going to be even more critical in many regions in the world.

Another factor is the access to sanitation (toilets, pit latrines and pour flush latrines). As for many people, a life without toilet cannot be imagined, 20% of people in urban area and 53% people in rural area do not have access to this sanitation.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Vietnamese Rice Wine with Snake Taste

People in Vietnam are used to drink beer and spirit. As I heard, in the rural area, it is very common to drink and take rest in the afternoon. The statistics by WHO shows that males (not females) of age 15+ drink more than 27 liter equivalent pure alcohol per year.

Rice wine (with ca 45-50% alcohol content) is a common drink. In addition, they believe if they keep snakes in this alcohol solution for a while it makes you stronger. If the snake is more dangerous and you keep it longer, then the drink become better!

But the processing of this drink with very simple equipment (home distillery) is interesting. Here I put some photos that I took from Mekong region in Vietnam:

1- They soak rice mixed with Baker's yeast (it means the enzymes become active)

2- They put it in jars and keep it for a while (fermentation occurs)

3- Distillation of the fermented mash to collect alcohol (obtaining 45-50% alcohol in water)

4- Kill the snakes and put it immediately in the alcohol and keep it for a while!

5- Cheers!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Greenhouse gas emissions in 2014

This week came the news about the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2014 that was 32.3 billion tonnes. It was the same as the year before although we have a global economical growth by 3%.  It is a very good news that shows a positive development to reduce the global warming. However, I believe it is not enough.

As I wrote before, this level of GHG emission is about 50% more than the capacity of the earth to reabsorb the gases and we should reduce it to less than 20 billion tons per year. In addition, with the current oil price, it is hard to believe that this positive trend remains in 2015. Nowadays, the biofuels have difficulties to compete with the cheap fossil fuels and it will affect the GHG emissions in the next statistics. Anyway, let's enjoy this little positive little news for the time being!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ethanol ED95 for diesel trucks

Ethanol is well known as an additive or substitute for cars with gasolines. For this purpose, hydrous ethanol (e.g. less than 95% ethanol and the rest is water) is dehydrated to ethanol with 99% purity and mixed with gasoline.

Now, ethanol is also produced commercially for diesel engines. Diesel engines have a high compressions and use no ignitions. In order to match these properties,  hydrated ethanol (e.g. 95%) is supplemented with about 5% additives to obtain ED95. This mixture has about 92% ethanol, ca 4% water and 4% other additives. It is produced now by Agroetanol here in Sweden and is being used by light trucks (26-tons with 270 hp bioethanol engines) in Stockholm. Such trucks are about 10,000-15,000 USD more expensive than diesel trucks as the engines need different compressions. The examination of these trucks show an average reduction of 68-85% GHG emission compared to fossil fuels. I wish good luck with this work!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tasty or deadly fruits: A PhD thesis!

Fruits is probably just something to eat. But, it has a special function in reproduction of the trees by carrying the seeds. The fruits should be on trees for a some weeks or months and keep safe against the continual bacterial attacks. That is where the flavors comes into the picture. One of their important functions is to keep the fruits safe until matured.

We have globally more than 400 million tons fruits waste every year, that is perfect to be converted to biogas and produce energy. However, these flavors can become problem and when you put them in the reactor, they can kill the cells even in very low concentrations. What are these flavors, how toxic they are and how to treat them, is a subject of PhD thesis by Rachma Wikandari. She is defending her thesis in a couple of weeks on 27 Nov. Here is the details of her work:

PhD thesis: Effect of fruit flavors on anaerobic digestion: inhibitions and solutions

and publications:

1. Inhibitory effects of fruits flavors on methane production during anaerobic digestion

2. Ester compounds on biogas production: beneficial or detrimental? 

3. Effect of Ketone, Lactone, and Phenol on Methane Production and Metabolic Intermediates during Anaerobic Digestion

Monday, October 13, 2014

PhD thesis: Simultaneous Saccharification, Fermentation and Filtration (SSFF)

Our PhD student Mofoluwake Ishola will defend her thesis on "Novel application of membrane bioreactors in lignocellulosic ethanol production : simultaneous saccharification, filtration and fermentation (SSFF)" on 31 October. She had nailing today which an old tradition (since 1517 by Martin Luther). In this ceremony, the candidate nail the thesis on a tree as you can see in the photo.

The thesis was about fermentation of lignocellulosic materials. She developed a method that combines the traditional methods of enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation named Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) and separation hydrolysis and fermentation (SHF) to this new method called SSFF. Using membranes are the heart of this development.  You can read more about it in her thesis, or publications: 

Simultaneous saccharification, filtration and fermentation (SSFF): A novel method for bioethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass
Effect of high solids loading on bacterial contamination in lignocellulosic ethanol production,
Effect of Fungal and Phosphoric acid Pretreatment on Ethanol production from Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches (OPEFB)
Biofuels in Nigeria: A critical and strategic evaluation,

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cooking egg on biogas from palm oil residuals

I have recently visited our projects in Indonesia that deals with biogas from palm oil residuals. At a palm oil plant in Borneo, FOV Biogas installed a 100 m3 pilot that is producing biogas from POME (palm oil mill effluent) in a textile reactor. In a parallel project, in a lab textile reactor at Gadjah Mada University, OPEFB (Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunches) are converted to biogas. Our Indonesian student (Luki) with his colleague are happily cooking egg for their lunch from the biogas that they have produced  from OPEFB. I tasted the egg, and it was quite good :)

(The students are cooking egg from the biogas produced in textile reactor from OPEFB. You can see some OPEFB on the reactor)

(The textile reactor for converting biogas from POME)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A shortcut to commercial second generation ethanol using fungi

Ethanol is produced today by the 1st generation processes, e.g. from sugarcanes in Brazil or grains in the USA. It is now about 3 decades with intensive research and development on the 2nd generation ethanol from lignocelluloses, but the process is not commercial yet.

We have a concept to integrate the lignocelluloses into the 1st generation ethanol plants from grains by filamentous fungi, a concept that we are developing since 1999. It means, several hundreds of dry mils (ethanol from grain processes) can already start producing ethanol from lignocelluloses with principally very low investment. By this integration, ethanol and animal feed are produced from stillage (wastewater of the process) and also added lignocelluloses materials. The concept is now examined in large fermentors in the large ethanol plant in Sweden (Agroetanol) and can hopefully make the lignocelluloses ethanol closer to commercial market. You can download the scientific publication about it here!