Virginia Tech researchers are working on technologies that could create a new industry from a problem in the states cotton-growing region.
"Our goal is to add a value to the cotton crop by using the residue from the cotton to make a valuable product," said Foster A. Agblevor, professor of biological systems engineering in Virginia Techs College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
About 100,000 acres of cotton are grown in the Virginia counties of Southampton, Isle of Wight, Greensville, Sussex, and the City of Suffolk. After the cotton is ginned, the residue left at the processing plant contains the chemical ingredients for products that are commercially valuable. Currently, the residue piles up at the site and must be removed. Because it easily ignites, it can be a hazard, and if it burns, can contribute to air pollution. "We have been able to develop the manufacturing processes that can extract specific chemicals and make two products – ethanol, which can be a fuel in automobiles, and xylitol, a sugar. "Our work shows a manufacturing process for extracting both products simultaneously from the cotton residue so in the future it is possible that a manufacturing company operating in Southside Virginia could produce both the ethanol and the xylitol products," Agblevor said.
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