The business case for bioethanol could be substantially strengthened were manufacturers able to isolate high value proteins from products of this process and sell them to the food industry, according to Danish biotech firm Upfront Chromatography.
Upfront, which is behind the world's largest industrial protein chromatography installation at the Avebe potato starch plant in Gasselternijveen (see story below) is now in talks with several bioethanol producers about using its 'expanded bed' adsorption technology for this purpose, said business development manager Morten Olander.
"Our technology enables companies to mine their process streams for valuable functional proteins that were previously unobtainable using classical chromatography or membrane technologies."
He added: "Considerable amounts of highly valuable functional proteins are regularly lost in the side-streams of industrial processes, and yet these proteins represent a potentially valuable source of untapped revenue."
Upfront's technology, based on expanded bed rather than traditional packed bed adsorption techniques, enables companies to process industrial quantities of waste/slurry with lots of large particulates, fast, and could be applied to anything from potato juice to peas, corn, wheat, whey and canola, claimed Olander.
The Upfront approach, which involves the use of patented chromatography columns and adsorbent materials, enables the capture of target molecules directly from crude feed stocks, obviating the need for lengthy and costly three-step clarification, concentration and purification processes.
It was particularly well-suited to dairy process streams, he said. "We have enabled [Australian dairy co-operative] Dairy Farmers to isolate and extract high quality lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase and immunoglobulin from its whey stream.
"It is processing more than 200,000 litres of whey per day."
The technology has also been deployed by Danish ingredients giant Christian Hansen in order to isolate chymosin - an enzyme used in cheese production - from its fermentation broth.
Chromatography refers to a set of techniques used to separate different compounds.
'Column chromatography' uses a column filled with adsorbent through which a composite liquid mixture such as potato juice passes, explained Olander.