Optimization of the economic potential of Jerusalem artichoke as feedstock for production of ethanol, inulin, and biomass pellets
CENNATEK Bioanalytical Services Inc. is leading a R&D project with the goal of using Jerusalem artichoke as a feedstock for the production of ethanol, inulin and biomass pellets. The Jerusalem artichoke crop contains large amounts of carbohydrates, mainly inulin, which can be converted to sugars such as fructose. Fructose is used as a sweetener in the food industry and has several health benefits. The inulin, other extractable sugars, and cellulose can also be used to produce ethanol. Cellulose within the biomass of the Jerusalem artichoke plant contain sugars that can be fermented into ethanol, which is then purified by distillation to be used as a blend with gasoline in automobile engines. The leftover biomass not used for inulin and/or ethanol production can be pelletized and used for combustion and heat generation. As a result, the entire crop can be used to produce value added products to maximize the economic potential. The first phase of the project involves determining the amount of extractable and structural sugars contained within the crop and establishing the best conditions for crop harvesting. The next phase of the project involves the development of a lab-scale experimental procedure looking at the production of ethanol, extraction of inulin and the pelletization of biomass. The various reaction parameters and process pathways will be optimized. Finally, an economic plan and assessment of the overall process will be investigated. This project is in partnership with the Bioindustrial Innovation Center.