Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation and economic evaluation of ultrasonic and jet cooking pretreatment of corn slurry



The potential of ultrasonics to replace hydrocooking in corn-to-ethanol plants was examined in this study. Batch and continuous experiments were conducted on corn slurry with sonication at a frequency of 20 kHz. Batch mode used a catenoidal horn operated at an amplitude of 144 μmpeak-to-peak (p–p) for 90 s. Continuous experiments used a donut horn operating at inner radius amplitude of 12 μmp–p. Jet-cooked samples from the same ethanol plant were compared with ultrasonicated samples. The highest starch-to-ethanol conversion was obtained by the jet-cooked samples with a yield of 74% of the theoretical yield. Batch and continuous sonication achieved 71.2% and 68% conversion, respectively, however, statistical analysis showed no significant difference between the jet cooking and ultrasonication. On the basis of the similar performance, an economic analysis was conducted comparing jet cooking and ultrasonic pretreatment. The analysis showed that the capital cost for the ultrasonics system was ∼ 10 times higher compared to the capital cost of a hydrocooker. However, due to the large energy requirements of hydrocookers, the analysis showed lower total overall costs for continuous ultrasonication than that for jet cooking, assuming the current energy prices. Because of the high utility cost calculated for jet cooking, it is concluded that ultrasonication poses as a more economical option than jet cooking. Overall, the study shows that ultrasonics is a technically and economically viable alternative to jet cooking in dry-grind corn ethanol plant. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog.,, 2011