Ethanol production, purification, and analysis techniques: a review

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Koziel, Jacek
Professor Emeritus
Jenks, William
Professor Emeritus
van Leeuwen, Johannes
Professor Emeritus
Grewell, David
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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World ethanol production rose to nearly 13.5 billion gallon in 2006. Ethanol has been part of alcoholic beverages for long time, but its application has expanded much beyond that during the 20th Century. Much of the recent interest is in the use of ethanol as fuel. In this paper, we have reviewed published literature on current ethanol production and separation methods, and chemical and sensory analysis techniques. Ethanol produced by fermentation, called bioethanol, accounts for approximately 95% of the ethanol production. It is recently widely used as an additive to gasoline. Corn in the Unites States and sugarcane in Brazil are widely used as raw materials to produce bioethanol. Cellulosic materials are expected to be the ultimate major source of ethanol and also represent a value-adding technology for agricultural coproducts. While bioethanol is considered as a sustainable energy source, it requires further purification for uses other than fuel. The most common purification technique utilized in the ethanol industry is rectification by further distillation. However, distillation has critical disadvantages including high cost and limited separation capacity. Several alternatives have been proposed to replace distillation such as non-heating fractional distillation by ultrasonic irradiation, oxidation of impurities by ozone, and adsorption of impurities by activated carbon or zeolite. Chemical and sensory analyses are used to determine the quality of alcohol and to optimize various steps in production. Near-infrared (NIR) spectrometry, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), gas chromatography (GC), and mass spectrometry (MS), have been developed for chemical analyses. Also, olfactometry is common for sensory analysis. This paper summarizes the state-of-the art of ethanol production, purification, and analytical techniques.


This is an ASABE Meeting Presentation, Paper No. 085136.

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2008