SBA-15 Reduces Production Cost of Ethanol & Promotes Wise Use of Agricultural Products

Prof. Dr. Sujitra Wongkasemjit and a research team from the Petroleum and Petrochemical College of Chulalongkorn University have recently launched a project along with The Thailand Research Fund (TRF) concerning SBA-15 to reduce production capital cost of ethanol and encourage Thai industrial sectors to wisely use agricultural products.

Ethanol plays a major role as na alternative energy, which, in terms of economics, can help reduce use of petroleum as it is an ingredient of gasohol. Cleaner and more environmentally-friendly than petroleum oil, gasohol can enhance burning properties while reduce emission of environmentally-harmful carbon monoxide and effectively mobilize major transport.

Prof. Dr. Sujitra Wongkasemjit from the Petroleum and Petrochemical College of Chulalongkorn University

Generally, ethanol is originated from 2 sources: crude oil and agricultural products. The one made of agricultural products will help solve problems on oil shortage and reduce production cost. Nevertheless, main processes in production of ethanol from agricultural products regarded as the most expensive include cellulose pulverizing to glucose. This process typically relies on hydrolysis reaction, using enzyme from Trichoderma Ressei to transform cellulose into sugar. Even though sugar obtained from the process enjoys high quality, the enzyme used for the production is costly and non-renewable, thus resulting in high capital cost of the sugar production.

To reduce the capital cost, Prof. Dr. Sujitra and her team worked together for reusability of Trichoderma Ressei for sugar production. The project aims to develop effectiveness and stability of the Trichoderma Ressei by sticking it on a silica pad with Mesoporous Silica pores. The pad, entitled SBA-15, was remade to feature sizes of pores specifically suitable with such microbe’s enzyme.

Prof. Dr. Sujitra said that production of the pad would be for local industries as the price was lower than the market’s for utmost usefulness to Thai society and wise use of agricultural products.

Thailand is full of many used agricultural materials which can be produced into ethanol, a major substance for alternative energy to replace petroleum oil. However, the production is now facing a big problem: high capital cost. So, Thai researchers have to enhance effectiveness of raw materials during the production; that is, “Reducing capital cost to boost expense worth”. Doing so will encourage wise use of agricultural products and support Thailand’s agricultural and industrial sectors.

“According to the performance testing, when the enzyme was stuck on SBA-15, it could be re-used for up to 4 times. Even in the 4th use, performance effectiveness remained as high as 80%. This is different from use of a non-transformed silica with mesopore because performance effectiveness will decline to 40% in the 2nd use. In other words, if SBA-15, which is rather cheap, is introduced to industrial work, capital cost will be saved to at least 50%,” concluded Prof. Dr. Sujitra.