Researchers from Iowa State University hopes to use a fungus to save energy and clean the water used in the making of ethanol. Food science and human nutrition professor, Tony Pometto,says the fungus grows on a biproduct of ethanol production. He says it takes the thin stillage byproduct of the dry grain ethanol process and instead of processing the byproduct for reuse, it is turned into a fungus and the water used is cleaned and reclaimed.
Pometto says they believe the fungus grown in the byproduct can then be used as animal feed. Pometto says it’s a "food grade" fungus, and although they haven’t done all the feed studies, they are optimistic the fungus can be a nutrient source for cows, pigs and chickens. Pometto is working with I-S-U colleague Hans van Leeuwen, who figures it would cost an ethanol plant 11 million dollars to install the fungus system, but the plant would gain that back in savings over six months.
Pometto says turning the stillage byproduct into something that can be re-used requires a lot of energy and expense that the fungus process doesn’t need. Pometto says the energy is not being used and the fermentation for the fungus is simple involving a traditional reactor. Pometto says they have filed for a patent on the process and are trying to get it ready for commercial use.
Pometto says they’re in the process of finishing the fermentation work and then can go to a pilot scale. He says the commercial use of the process could be ready in a year to a year and half. The research project is supported by grants of just over $78,000 from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development program, and $80,000 the U.S. Department of Agriculture.