Ultrasonic Horns Could Help Produce More Biodiesel & Ethanol

John Davis

sonomechanics.jpgA Canadian company says it has technology that will help shake loose more sugars from corn to make more ethanol and more oil from feedstocks, in particular algae, to make more biodiesel.

An e-mail to Domestic Fuel from Industrial Sonomechanics says the company has made ultrasonic technology on an industrial scale that would be perfect for biofuel production. Now while lots of companies claim all sorts of benefits for biofuels, Industrial Sonomechanics offers this article from research at Iowa State on how this technology would work:

There are considerable amounts of residual starch in the whole stillage, which are not easily accessible by enzymes during liquefaction. However, generation of additional ethanol necessitates some form of pretreatment or use of an improved enzyme. One strategy to improve ethanol production is to integrate a high-power ultrasound into existing dry milling ethanol plants. We hypothesize that retrofitting a high-powered ultrasonic unit in existing ethanol plants will yield more ethanol.

Background: We have investigated such a possible improvement, the use of ultrasound in dry corn milling, that would have a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of bioenergy industries. Ultrasound pretreatment generates cavitation in the aqueous phase resulting in strong hydrodynamic shear forces. The shear forces facilitate the disintegration of corn slurry into fine particles, thereby exposing a much larger surface area to enzymes during liquefaction / saccharification. As a result, the enzymatic activity will be greatly enhanced.

The company also offers a chance to see how these ultrasonic vibrations can help get more oil from algae. I don’t have any indpendent confirmation how well this process really works, but it is worth reading at the Industrial Sonomechanics web site.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, News