Researchers have created a new method to more efficiently convert potato waste into ethanol. The findings may lead to reduced production costs for biofuel in the future and add extra value for chip makers.
Using potato mash made from the peelings and potato residuals from a Pennsylvania food-processing company, researchers triggered simultaneous saccharification—the process of breaking down the complex carbohydrate starch into simple sugars—and fermentation—the process in which sugars are converted to ethanol by yeasts or other microorganisms in bioreactors.
The simultaneous nature of the process was innovative, according to researcher Ali Demirci, professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Penn State. The addition to the bioreactor of mold and yeast—Aspergillus niger and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, respectively—catalyzed the conversion of potato waste to bioethanol.
The bioreactor had plastic composite supports to encourage and enhance biofilm formation and to increase the microbial population. Biofilms are a natural way of immobilizing microbial cells on a solid support material. In a biofilm environment, microbial cells are abundant and more resistant to environmental stress causing higher productivities.