Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati Researchers have developed an ultrasound-assisted fermentation method to produce a safe sugar substitute called ‘Xylitol’ from sugarcane bagasse (the residue left after crushing of sugar cane). This method overcomes the operational limitations of chemical methods of synthesis and the time delays associated with conventional fermentation.
The Research team was led by Prof. V.S. Moholkar, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati, and included Dr. Belachew Zegale Tizazu and Dr. Kuldeep Roy who co-authored the research papers. This Research was published in two peer-reviewed journals Bioresource Technology and Ultrasonics Sonochemistry.
Highlighting the importance of this research, Prof. V.S. Moholkar, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati, said, “The use of ultrasound during the fermentation process not only reduced the time of fermentation to 15 hours (against almost 48 hours in conventional processes), but also increased the yield of the product by almost 20%. The researchers used only 1.5 hours of ultrasonication during the fermentation, which means that not much ultrasound power was consumed in the process. Thus, xylitol production from sugarcane bagasse using ultrasonic fermentation is a potential opportunity for forward integration of sugarcane industries in India”
Xylitol is industrially produced by a chemical reaction in which wood-derived D-xylose, a costly chemical, is treated with nickel catalyst at very high temperatures and pressures that makes the process highly energy consuming. Only 8-15% of the xylose is converted to Xylitol and the method requires extensive separation and purification steps, all of which translate to high price for the consumer.
While the IIT Guwahati team’s findings are exciting, a challenge must be overcome to scale up the process.
“The present research has been carried out on laboratory scale. Commercial implementation of sonic fermentation requires the design of high power sources of ultrasound for large-scale fermenters, which in turn requires large-scale transducers and RF amplifiers, which remains a major technical challenge” said Prof. V.S. Moholkar.