Carnegie Mellon University chemical engineers say they have found a new way to improve the efficiency of ethanol production.
According to a university release, Carnegie Mellon researchers have used advanced process-design methods combined with mathematical-optimization techniques to reduce the operating costs of corn-based bio-ethanol plants by more than 60 percent.
The key to the Carnegie Mellon strategy involves redesigning the distillation process by using a multicolumn system together with a network for energy recovery that ultimately reduces the consumption of steam, a major energy component in the production of corn-based ethanol.
“This new design reduces the manufacturing cost for producing ethanol by 11 percent, from $1.61 a gallon to $1.43 a gallon,” said Chemical Engineering Professor Ignacio E. Grossmann, who completed the research with graduate students Ramkumar Karuppiah, Andreas Peschel and Mariano Martin. “This research is also an important step in making the production of ethanol more energy efficient and economical.”