Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Novel Co-Culture Process for Pretreatment of Food Waste for Alcohol Fuel Synthesis and Methanogenesis

EPA Grant Number: SU835304
Title: Novel Co-Culture Process for Pretreatment of Food Waste for Alcohol Fuel Synthesis and Methanogenesis
Investigators: Bouldin, Ryan , Harris, Nicholas , McElwee, Matthew
Current Investigators: Bouldin, Ryan , Critchfield, Maya , Del Castillo, Pablo Aguilera , Harris, Nicholas , McAdam, Polly , McElwee, Matthew
Institution: College of the Atlantic
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability



Our project is aimed at using food waste as a resource for liquid fuel, biogas, and recovering the important agricultural nutrients (nitrogenous compounds and minerals) that are currently lost during landfill or incineration. We propose to develop a simplified method to pre-treat food waste that will enable efficient fermentation to produce a) liquid fuel (butanol and other alcohol fuels), biogas for process heat and potentially electricity generation, and agricultural amendments. The technical challenge is to design and operate a system that does not require significant external energy inputs (or any, once the system is running) and produces no waste stream or pollutants.


Our proposed innovation is to use a co-culture of specific fungi to liberate fermentable sugars from the complex polysaccharides in food waste (saccharification). This pretreatment can replace the current energy and cost intensive method of high temperature and high pressure hydrolysis followed by digestion with purified enzymes.

Expected Results:

  1. Determination of co-culture conditions (feedstock preparation, fungal species used, inoculum size, incubation time and temperature) for maximal saccharification.
  2. Experimental estimation of butanol/ethanol production from fungal hydrolysate.
  3. Experimental estimation of methane generation from anaerobic digestion of process residues.
  4. Estimation of energy (btu) available from liquid fuel and methane from food waste in this process.
  5. Process report that provides a preliminary overall system design and identifies technical and logistic problems to be solved in Phase II.

Supplemental Keywords:

treatment technologies, bioengineering, holistic design, alternative energy source, waste to energy, biogas

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report