Sugar refineries and distilleries produce effluent which is harmful for the environment. The sugar industry produces two tonnes of sugar cane bagasse (a straw-like material) for every tonne of refined sugar. For Cuba this translates into 10 to 20 million tonnes of bagasse per year.
Distilleries, often associated with sugar cane production, emit copious amounts of polluting volatile components (especially volatile organic compounds, VOCs). In Cuba, an estimated annual 1 600 tonnes of ethanol, now the subject of control regulations, are released into the atmosphere. Stricter legislation recently introduced prompted many pieces of research to discover simple, cost-effective biological means of eliminating polluting elements from volatile emissions (biofiltration, biotrickling), which would be efficient enough to treat large volumes of even with low pollutant concentrations (about 1 g/m3).
A team from the IRD, in conjunction with the UAM (Mexico) and the ICIDCA (Cuba), has devised a laboratory-scale biofiltration system which can eliminate ethanol (along with smaller quantities of other possible VOCs ) emitted by distilleries, using sugar cane bagasse as support. The process involves passing the polluted air stream over a porous medium on which are fixed microorganisms preselected for their ability to decompose “target" compounds. Biofiltration is used successfully today at full industrial scale for controlling VOCs emissions from printing, certain branches of the food industry or for odour abatement at wastewater treatment plants.
Marie-Lise Sabrie | alfa
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