Toray announce successful scale-up demo of membrane-integrated fermentation
Toray Industries, Inc. (Toray), has announced that it has successfully demonstrated the scaling up of its membrane-integrated fermentation process installed as a demonstration facility at its Tokai plant in Japan. The process uses a membrane that combines water treatment and bio-technologies to produce ethanol through continuous fermentation by recycling microorganisms using sugarcane bagasse and molasses as feedstock.
Japan-headed Toray Industries, Inc. (Toray), a global integrated chemical industry group, has announced that it has successfully demonstrated the scaling up of its membrane-integrated fermentation process installed as a demonstration facility at its Tokai plant. The process uses a membrane that combines water treatment and bio-technologies to produce ethanol through continuous fermentation by recycling microorganisms using bagasse and molasses, by-products generated at sugarcane sugar mills, as feedstock.
Exponential efficiency potential
The project “Producing bioethanol and co-products from waste materials in domestic sugarcane factories” has been carried out under the Low Carbon Technology Research and Development Programme run by Japanese Ministry of the Environment. According to Toray, the Tokai plant demonstration enables efficient production of ethanol from sugarcane, up to 10 times faster than the existing process and with 10 to 20 percent higher yields.
Toray intends to offer this technology to producers in Brazil, India and Thailand, the countries where ethanol production using sugarcane is advanced and where the technology could enable exponential improvement in fermentation efficiency of sugarcane residues. The ethanol produced using this technology is, says Toray, of a “high quality and suitable for use as bioethanol fuel” and can be put into practical use through technology derived in these countries.
The existing fermentation process using biomass is a comparatively slow batch fermentation process, in which ethanol production ends when the sugars in the pre-treated biomass are completely consumed. Toray has developed a membrane-integrated fermentation process to carry out continuous fermentation by recycling microorganisms with fermentation reactor embedded with a highly water permeable, highly durable polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) separation membrane that it has developed.
Practical application of the membrane-integrated fermentation process requires sophisticated countermeasures against bacterial contamination given the long periods of continuous fermentation compared with the conventional batch fermentation process. To develop its original continuous fermentation process, Toray adapted the process in the scaling up demonstration facility installed at its Tokai plant.
Additionally, the company has succeeded in obtaining new yeast suitable for continuous fermentation and subsequently in combining these technologies for scaling-up demonstration of continuous fermentation, at a production speed 10 times faster than batch fermentation process, for about one month without bacterial contamination.