Sweetwater Energy, Inc., a US-based renewable bio-products producer, announced that its patented biomass conversion technology consistently yields world-record results: over 91 (US) gallons (≈ 353 litres) of industrial ethanol per dry metric tonne of biomass. It also produces an "unrivaled lignin" that has proven readily suitable for inclusion in final products across a wide range of markets, from sustainable packaging to building materials and activated carbon.
Sweetwater has developed a patented process that converts over 94 percent of total sugars to monomeric sugars while producing few downstream inhibitors.
This represents the first time that cellulosic biomass conversion has economically extracted virtually all of the sugars and fiber present in the original biomass. We have finally unlocked the high-value potential of the new bio-economy, said Arunas Chesonis, Sweetwater’s Chairman, and CEO.
Sweetwater recently upgraded its demo facility to process biomass at a small commercial level– up to three tons of biomass per day, using a state-of-the-art extrusion technology at its core. Sweetwater says that it is achieving over 97 percent hemicellulose conversion to monomeric sugars in less than 10 seconds, and over 93 percent conversion of cellulose to monomeric glucose through enzymatic hydrolysis, fully converting 94 percent of total theoretical sugars in the original biomass to monomers.
Sweetwater’s technology is truly breakthrough– we can now deliver cellulosic sugars to US and global customers at long-term stable prices that beat the best prices for corn sugar– about US$0.10 per pound. Our process also delivers a unique biopolymer, a biodegradable clean lignin that replaces petroleum, reduces costs and provides many performance benefits in packaging, construction and carbon products, said Jack Baron, President, and Chief Operating Officer.
The process relies on modified extrusion technology that is currently deployed reliably and at scale worldwide in many other industries, notably plastics, food processing, and packaging. The precursor of Sweetwater’s breakthrough technology was originally developed by a major oil company at a cost of tens of millions of dollars and then refined, perfected and patented by Sweetwater Energy.
The key to Sweetwater’s success is economically breaking down biomass into sugar and clean lignin, due to our patented fine control and downstream processing, coupled with the reliability, scalability, and proven global track record of extrusion, said Scott Tudman, Sweetwater’s VP of Engineering.