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A more efficient, less expensive way to continuously make bioethanol

By Tetsuo Satoh |

An enhanced reactor technology that boosts the speed of producing bioethanol by a factor of four while decreasing production costs by 25% compared to a stirred batch fermenter has been developed by IHI Corp. (IHI; Tokyo; www.ihi.co.jp). The technology features a cohesive strain of yeast to increase the number density of microorganisms in the reactor, and utilizes the flow created by the carbon dioxide gas released by the fermentation to enhance the contact (mixing) between the yeasts and glucose feed solution. As a result, the continuous process eliminates the need for mechanical agitation and aeration, thereby reducing operating costs, maintenance and reactor size. In IHI’s process, glucose solution is continuously fed to the bottom of the reactor and flows upward by the gas generated by fermentation. The gas is collected by an umbrella-like structure at the top, and then moves into a small side vessel. There, the gas is separated from the fermentation broth (yeast aggregates and liquids), which is recycled to the bottom of the reactor. Ethanol is recovered from a side stream leaving the settlement part of the reactor. In a pilot reactor (8.6-L reactor volume, 1-m high and 10-cm dia.) operating at its Yokohama facility, IHI…
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