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ARS Home » Southeast Area » New Orleans, Louisiana » Southern Regional Research Center » Commodity Utilization Research » Research » Research Project #439523

Research Project: Improved Conversion of Sugar Crops into Food, Biofuels, Biochemicals, and Bioproducts

Location: Commodity Utilization Research

Project Number: 6054-41000-114-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 7, 2020
End Date: Dec 6, 2025

Objective:
Objective 1 Quantify the impact of new sugar processing aids (chemical oxidizers) in combination with existing ones (e.g., enzymes) on raw cane sugar manufacturing. The research in Objective 1 will address the following sub-objectives: 1.A Evaluation of oxidizing agents and amylase enzyme for the degradation of soluble and insoluble starch in sugarcane juice. 1.B Evaluation of oxidizing agents and dextranase enzyme to control microbial growth and dextran levels in sugarcane juice. 1.C Evaluation of oxidizing agents to reduce sessile microbial growth and film formation on equipment. Objective 2 Develop sustainable, commercially viable, biobased products from sugar cane and sugar beets byproducts (e.g., sugarcane bagasse, sugar beet pulp, clarifier mud/cake). The research in Objective 2 will address the following sub-objectives: 2.A Development of commercially sustainable biobased products from processing byproducts to improve soil health, reduce waste disposal costs for the U.S. sugar manufacturers, and address the food-water-energy nexus. 2.B Development of commercially sustainable biobased products from processing byproducts (bagasse and beet pulp) for high end horticulture products and soil health applications. 2.C Production of biobased polymers from sugarcane molasses, bagasse, and clarifier mud/cake. Objective 3 Enable commercially viable, renewable, biofuels and chemicals from sugar cane and sugar beet processing byproducts (e.g., molasses, clarifier mud/cake). The research in Objective 3 will address the following sub-objectives: 3.A Production of solvents and jet fuel pre-cursors from sugarcane molasses and clarifier mud/cake. 3.B Production of acetoin and 2,3-butanediol from molasses and sugar beet extract. 3.C Recovery of aconitic acid from sugarcane molasses and testing its potential for nematode bioactivity.

Approach:
Modern sugar production for human consumption, and as a starting point for fermentations, has existed for centuries. While the sugar manufacturing technology is well known, there is a need by the sugar industry to improve processing and develop new coproducts to increase the profitability for farmers and processors. This can be accomplished by * reducing chemicals used to control starch and dextran in raw sugar manufacturing, * improving the quality of the raw sugar to minimize refining costs, * reducing sugar losses by microbial action by improving sanitation, and * more effectively utilizing the byproducts to make coproducts. Therefore, to address these goals our research will focus on * identify impact and optimize the use of processing aids to improve the sugar quality while reducing the cost, * develop biobased products from sugar manufacturing byproducts, and * develop renewable biofuels and biochemicals from sugar manufacturing byproducts. The byproducts targeted to produce the bioproducts and biochemicals are * bagasse, clarifier mud/cake, and molasses from sugarcane processing, and * pulp, and beet extract from sugarbeet processing. In any research effort, it is important that performance metrics are established. Thus, each sub-objective has its own performance metrics. In all cases, an economic analysis will be performed to determine cost of implementation. In addition, the impact of byproduct use or process changes will be evaluated in collaboration with local (or impacted) industry using a limited life cycle assessment around the system altered. The outcome of this research will result in the following anticipated products: * a lower cost, cleaner process, and improved raw sugar from sugarcane factories, * advanced fertilizers and high-end soil amendments, * composite polymers, and * biochemicals for solvents and fuels, as precursors to other chemicals, and for pest control.