Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production, turning millions of bushels of corn into millions of gallons of the alcohol fuel. Now a researcher at Iowa State University says they’re working to convert fuel ethanol to “beverage alcohol.”
Assistant Professor Jacek Koziel says taking out trace elements that smell and taste bad, and can be dangerous to your health, is not rocket science. He’s using a very inexpensive process that takes advantage of a well-known reaction with ozone gas, to react with several “undesirable compounds” and take them out of the ethanol, then “scrubbing” it with granulated carbon.
Both those processes are very inexpensive — less than a penny per gallon to treat the ethanol — so using them offers promise to turn the fuel into a “food-grade” alcohol he says you could hardly tell from a high-quality product. The research is supported by a grant of nearly 80-thousand dollars from the “Grow Iowa Value Program” at I-S-U, which Koziel says is designed to find new uses and markets for Iowa products.
The program is aimed at adding value to something produced in Iowa, and he says the fuel alcohol is a good example. “For very little cost, we can add a lot of value to it.” They’re not quite ready to market Iowa ethanol beverages, though the researcher says they have already applied for two patents.
For now, the fuel-grade ethanol is not considered safe to drink. Earlier this year a man was fired from his job at a northwest Iowa ethanol plant after he was taken to a hospital, extremely intoxicated, and admitted he’d sampled some of the ethanol made by his employer.