Dr Abdelrahman Zaky from the University of Nottingham has successfully replaced fresh-water with sea-water for use in fermenting sugar to create clean burning fuel “bio-ethanol”. The new method reduces strain on our limited fresh water supply.
Dr Zaky, a microbiologist from Nottingham extracted seawater from Lincolnshire coast and marine yeast samples from the UK, US and Egypt.
In the Bioenergy and Brewing Science Building at the University’s Sutton Bonington campus the yeast sample underwent a fermentation process whereby sugar from the plant is gradually liquefied upon interaction with water, creating bioethanol.
Dr Zaky said: “Current fermentation technologies mainly use edible crops and freshwater for the production of bioethanol. With an ever growing population and demand for biofuels and other bio-based produces, there are concerns over the use of the limited freshwater and food crops resources for non-nutritional activities. Also, freshwater has a high price tag in countries where it is available, pushing up the price of production.”
Bioethanol would be a reasonable clean burning alternative to oil if it were not for an estimated 1,388 to 9,812 litres of freshwater consumed for every litre of bioethanol produced. Only 2.5% of the worlds water supply is fresh water and 68 percent of that water is trapped in the ice capps leaving only 0.7% of the Earths water for use in bio-ethanol production. Although progress in the field of graphene desalination may help to curve use, demand for fresh water is projected to increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050.
Dr Zaky said: “The main purpose of marine fermentation is to introduce an alternative source of water and biomass for industrial biotechnology in order to reduce pressure on use of freshwater and arable land, allowing these resources to be dedicated to production of food and feeds an reducing production costs. Marine fermentation is the approach where seawater, marine biomass and marine microorganisms are used in the fermentation process.
“Seawater is a freely available and plentiful resource, and contains a spectrum of minerals, some of which have to be added to freshwater. The fermentation process using seawater also produces salt and freshwater as bi-products adding to economic benefits of the process.”