Various pathways are used to produce cellulosic sugars. The main challenge of the various processes has been the downstream purification of these sugars. A new JV will demonstrate that Toray Industries’ membrane technology solves this problem.
The Japanese companies, Toray Industries, Inc. and Mitsui Sugar Co., Ltd. have announced the launch of a new joint venture based in Thailand called Cellulosic Biomass Technology Co., Ltd., aimed at developing a bioprocess using membranes to produce cellulosic sugar. The process, combining Toray's water treatment membrane with bio technologies, would enable the production of a high quality, low cost cellulosic sugar from inedible biomass while saving 50% energy in manufacturing.
Thailand is one of the foremost producers of sugarcane in the world and is the largest exporter of sugar in Asia. It has been promoting biomass-based businesses as well as research and technology development and is suitable for pursuing the demonstration project.
The new joint venture, in which Toray Group holds a 67% stake while Mitsui Sugar owns the remaining 33% stake, will build a demonstration plant with a capacity to handle 15 tons of bagasse per day (dry weight), yielding some 4.2 tons of cellulosic sugar after going through the processes of pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification, and membrane separation. The pilot plant will employ concentration technology that uses Toray's water treatment membranes to produce high quality cellulosic sugar while conserving energy.
Cellulosic sugar, obtained by the hydrolysis of cellulose contained in inedible biomass, can be used as a raw material for producing a host of biochemical products, including ethanol, lactic acid and succinic acid. The JV envisages the creation of a new supply chain from surplus bagasse to biochemical products.
In addition to cellulosic sugar, the plant will manufacture polyphenol and oligosaccharide, which can be made into livestock feed, using the same raw material and process, to increase the economic benefit of using bagasse. Commercialization will be pursued through the demonstration project.
As part of the endeavour, Toray will actively pursue open innovation between different industries related to bioconversion technology using membranes and drive forward the development of supply chain and provisioning of solutions.
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