Bioenergy Engineering 2009 Bioenergy Engineering 2009
turning life into energy turning life into energy


February 2015
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The ethanol produced through sugar production is already a widely-used gasoline alternative in Brazil, and American manufacturers have been considering its implementation. Sugarcane and sorghum stalks can also produce another type of biofuelthe fibrous material known as bagasse.The term comes from the French word bagage, which comes from the Spanish word bagazo, or “rubbish or trash.” 3 tons of bagasse is produced for every 10 tons of crushed sugarcane. Without being used, this material is simply disposed of. However, bioenergy engineers learned that the material could be used as a biofuel and a resource for pulp and paper manufacture.When bagasse is burned, it can produce enough heat energy to power a normal sugar mill. Electricity can be produced at the same time and sold to the electricity grid. Bagasse burning is greenhouse-gas-neutral, since the only gases released are those that were absorbed during growing.Wet bagasse is difficult to use as a fuelwhen dried, though, bagasse is composed of 45-55 cellulose, along with 20-25 hemicellulose and 18-24 lignin. Researchers are searching for ways to produce cellulosic ethanol from this material and other energy crops like switch grass. One solution to this problem might be found in genetically-engineered fungi. These fungi would produce enzymes which could convert the bagasse into a fermentable sugar that could be used in ethanol production.Bagasse can also be used as a renewable resource for paper production. In this context, bagasse has many advantages over wood. Namely, it reduces deforestation, releases fewer greenhouse gases, and requires less bleaching chemicals to produce white paper. The Indian government-owned paper mill Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited is the largest bagasse paper mill in the world, with an average consumption rate of 1 million tons of bagasse every year. The mill has received numerous awards, including the Green Business Leadership Award and the Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) Corporate Environmental Award.In addition to its use as a fuel and resource, bagasse has been used in cattle feed and oil spills. Some herbal tobacco brands have even used bagasse as a primary ingredient. Clearly, one mill’s trash is another mill’s treasure. There is a downside to bagasse production, though, related to the breathing in of pulp fibers. Workers must wear mask to avoid pulmonary fibrosisthe build-up of excess fibrous tissue in the lungs.

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