Another good reason to drink beer! Beer waste is fodder for producing liquid biofuels

on 01/03/11 at 10:59 am


Anyone cracking open a cold beer is probably not considering the wastewater left over after the beer was brewed. But for Cornell researchers, that vinegary effluent is a scientific playground for devising ways to transform wastewater into biofuels.

Methane from brewery waste

Employing powerful genome sequencing tools, Cornell scientists led by Largus T. Angenent, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering, have gained new insight into how efficiently the microbes in large bioreactors produce methane from brewery waste. They hope to use their new knowledge to shape these microbial communities so they will produce liquid biofuels and other useful products.

Working with engineers at Anheuser-Busch

The scientists had access to a plethora of data, thanks to a collaboration with engineers at Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser beer and operates nine domestic beer breweries that treat wastewater in bioreactors. They took regular samples of bioreactor sludge from each of the facilities over the course of a year and, using state-of-the-art genome sequencing software, they analyzed more than 400,000 gene sequences of the microbes in the sludge.

Among the thousands of species of bacteria, the researchers identified 145 types that were unique to each of the nine facilities — showing that each bioreactor hosted a specific microbial community. In their analysis they observed that certain types of bacteria called syntrophs had surprisingly stable populations.

{Full story via Western Farm Press}

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