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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Turn Waste Paper to Biofuel

August 7, 2013

News release: http://news.ifr.ac.uk/2013/07/waste-paper-biofuels/

Journal reference: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960852413001077

Researchers at the UK-based Institute of Food Research (IFR) have successfully produced high concentration of ethanol from waste paper for the first time, matching the yields obtained from traditional food-based sources.

Ethanol conversion normally involves the breakdown of carbohydrates to simple sugars, called saccharification, and the use of microbial fermentation to turn the sugars into ethanol. The IFR scientists optimized the process known as semi simultaneous saccharification and fermentations (SSSF) with batch additions of shredded waste paper as the substrate.

The success of the strategy relied on a specialized bioreactor that is able to mix and digest the raw material when fed in batches into the machine. Early addition of enzymes followed by batch addition of paper substrate resulted in ethanol production at a concentration of up to 11.6 percent which matched the yields obtained from first generation biofuel feedstocks such as sugarcane, corn and wheat.

These initial findings are expected to be scaled up further to demonstrate the economic viability of the process, which has a great potential for sustainable biofuel production, considering the fact that over 12 million tons of paper waste is generated annually in the UK alone.