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Technoscience

Lab makes ethanol from whey

BILDER F. / WIKIPEDIA

Whitish liquid from the production of cheese can be turned into alcoholBILDER F. / WIKIPEDIA

A new source of raw material for the production of ethanol is arising in the state of Rio Grande do Sul: whey. Every kilogram of cheese that is produced yields, on average, nine liters of whey, a whitish liquid that is 95% water, 4% lactose and 1% protein. For the food industries to use it in milky beverages and cookie fillings, it must be turned into a powder, which is expensive, especially for small producers. If it is not used for food, whey has to be treated as an industrial effluent to keep it from contaminating lakes and rivers. The experiments on the bio-conversion of whey into ethanol are being conducted by professor Marco Antônio Ayub, from the Institute of Food Science and Technology of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). He obtained ethanol from whey in bioreactors using yeast of the genus

Kluyveromyces, which transform milk material into biofuels (Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, August 2012). “The production reached 3.5 grams of ethanol per liter per hour. This is still very low relative to the production of sugarcane ethanol, but we’re optimizing the system,” says Ayub. He believes that this type of reaction will be useful for small and medium-sized producers in the future, to produce ethanol and use it to generate power. “In England, there’s a company that converts whey into methane gas for this purpose.”

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