Seawater fuel discovery in production of bioethanol helps curb freshwater use

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In the United Kingdom, University of Huddersfield scientists found a way to use less freshwater in the production of bioethanol by using a seawater-based system instead. They discovered that a marine yeast strain can be used with seawater and a substrate, such as molasses, for a fermentation process that produces bioethanol. Current methods can have a water footprint of more than 1,000 litres of fresh water to produce a single liter of the fuel.

“This research is the first step towards a potentially significant reduction of water footprint in the bioethanol production industry,” said Dr Chenyu Du, who is Reader in Chemical Engineering at the University of Huddersfield’s Department of Chemical Sciences. Seeking and isolating this micro-organism was like prospecting for gold, said Dr Du. Eventually, results showed that a novel marine yeast strain named Saccharomyces cerevisiae AZ65 produced the best results.

Dr Du said that the next step is to develop the use of a marine substance – such as seaweed – as an alternative to the likes of maize or sugar cane in the bio-refining process.