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Chementator: Purifying ethanol without distillation

By Chemical Engineering |

Ultrasound Brewery Co. (Naruto, Japan; edlinks.chemengonline.com/5825-535) has developed a process that separates the water from dilute solutions of alcohol to achieve 99.5%, without using conventional evaporation or distillation. The company has tested the process in a pilot plant that produces 600–700 L/d of 99.5% ethanol from a 10–15% solution. The process, which combines irradiation with ultrasound (US) and zeolite adsorption, is said to consume about 1/8th the energy required for distillation. As a result, the overall cost for purifying ethanol is expected to be about a third of that for distillation, claims the firm. The company says the patented technology has been applied for making Japanese rice liquore (sake), and may also be suitable for other brewed alcohols, says the firm. The company is planning to commercialize the technology through alliances with chemical companies. In the new process, the dilute (10–15%) ethanol solution from a fermentation process (at 30°C) is fed to a vessel that has 300 ceramic piezo-electric US transducers — each operating at a frequency of 2.3 Mhz frequency and a power of 20 W — strategically located at the bottom. The US irradiation creates an ethanol-enriched…
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