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ARS Home » Southeast Area » New Orleans, Louisiana » Southern Regional Research Center » Commodity Utilization Research » Research » Research Project #419860

Research Project: Postharvest Quality and Processing of Sugarcane and Sweet Sorghum for Sugar and Ethanol Production

Location: Commodity Utilization Research

Project Number: 6435-41000-103-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 16, 2010
End Date: Aug 15, 2015

The overall objective of this project is to enhance the value of sugarcane and sweet sorghum, and their major commercial products sugar and ethanol, respectively, by improving postharvest quality and processing. Develop markers of low quality harvested sugarcane and sweet sorghum to predict sugar factory/distillery processing. 1) Characterize and improve sugar industry process units to minimize the impact of sugarcane trash on factory performance, including sucrose losses. 2) Identify and develop commercially viable processing technologies for the production of very high pol (VHP) and very low color (VLC) raw sugars in sugar factories. 3) Improve postharvest processing of sweet sorghum and sugarcane for syrup and bioethanol production. The research objectives are to develop slow pyrolysis (or torrefaction) and activation processes to convert agricultural feedstock (crop residues, manures, processing wastes, and biorefinery by-products) into: (1) chars that can be used as industrial adsorbents; (2) chars that can be used as soil amendments which improve soil quality, water quality, and sequester carbon; (3) chars that can be used as energy sources (in combustion or gasification); and (4) bio-gas and bio-oil co-products that provide some of the heat and power requirements of the pyrolysis/torrefaction/activation operations and possibly excess heat/power for sale.

Undertake field and factory trials to characterize the affect of green sugarcane trash on processing and manufacture of VHP and VLC raw sugars. Undertake laboratory, pilot plant, and factory studies to reduce the negative impact of green trash impurities on industrial processing of sugarcane by improving process controls, designs, and the use of processing aids. Develop and deliver methods to sugarcane breeders and sugar processors that can be used to measure sugarcane quality indicator compounds, which in turn can predict future processing problems. Develop and deliver methods to sweet sorghum processors to predict processing problems and final bioethanol yields. Improve the harvesting and factory delivery protocol for sweet sorghum for the manufacture of syrup at existing sugarcane factories and the storage of sugarcane and sweet sorghum syrup for the manufacture of bioethanol.