Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have devised a new process that can improve the efficiency of corn-based ethanol production using advanced process design methods combined with mathematical optimization techniques.
The core of the Carnegie Mellon strategy is redesigning the distillation process by using a multi-column system together with a network for energy recovery that ultimately reduces the consumption of steam, a major energy component in the production of corn-based ethanol.
This new design reduces the manufacturing cost for producing ethanol by 11 percent, from $1.61 a gallon to $1.43 a gallon. This research also is an important step in making the production of ethanol more energy efficient and economical.—Ignacio E. Grossmann, professor of chemical engineering, CMU
The research was conducted through the Chemical Engineering Department’s Center of Advanced Process Decision-making (CAPD) in collaboration with Minneapolis-based Cargill, an international provider of food, agricultural and risk management services and products.
...we decided to collaborate with Professor Grossmann’s team to verify how process synthesis tools could be applied to improve the production of ethanol from corn. The work done at Carnegie Mellon demonstrated the potential for considerable capital and energy cost savings in the corn to ethanol process. We look forward to the time when the tools developed by Carnegie Mellon researchers will become part of industry’s new toolkit for making the process even more economical and sustainable.—Luca C. Zullo, technical director of Cargill Emissions Reduction Services
The US ethanol industry produced more than 5 billion gallons in 2006.