USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists in California have come up with a device that is purported to increase the efficiency of ethanol refineries.
This story from the ARS web site says chemical engineers Richard D. Offeman and George H. Robertson at the ARS Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., believe their device using special permeable plastic membranes will reduce energy costs of producing ethanol from fermented broths of corn, or straw and other kinds of biomass feedstocks:
The technology will help to address the serious concern regarding the energy efficiency of bioethanol production, according to Robert L. Fireovid, ARS national program leader for process engineering and chemistry, Beltsville, Md.
The researchers’ invention, called a spiral-wound liquid membrane module, could potentially replace the widely used process of distilling ethanol from fermentation broths. The module offers ethanol producers the important advantage of combining two separation processes, extraction and membrane permeation, in one piece of equipment.
Right now, energy is the second biggest cost in ethanol production. Feedstocks, of course, are first.