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Germany: Achema 2018 Sustainable Use of Brewing Residues Investigated

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

Researchers from three departments of the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK) are investigating how brewing residues can be used sustainably, e.g. as raw material for the chemical industry or as a source for pharmacological active substances. At the Achema they will present their projects at the stand of Rhineland-Palatinate in Hall 9.2 at Stand A86a.

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The research team around Professor Dr. Roland Ulber (left), Professor Dr. Elke Richling and Professor Dr. Werner Thiel is investigating how brewing residues can be used sustainably.
The research team around Professor Dr. Roland Ulber (left), Professor Dr. Elke Richling and Professor Dr. Werner Thiel is investigating how brewing residues can be used sustainably.
(Source: TUK/Thomas Koziel)

Frankfurt/Germany — In 2016, every German drank about 104 liters of beer on average. During the preparation of this beer approx. 400,000 tons of residues are generated per year throughout Europe. Only a small portion of these residues is used for animal feed.

Yeasts convert carbohydrates contained in the malt into alcohol and carbon dioxide during fermentation of the brewing process. Even if the microorganisms need further compounds from the malt to grow and reproduce, side streams accumulate nevertheless. These residues, so called brewer’s spent grain, still include large amounts of other valuable ingredients. This is the point where the project comes in: The research of three work groups of the TUK focuses on sustainable and resource-friendly use of brewer’s spend grain.

Feedstock for Bioplastics

At the institute of Bioprocess Engineering, the team headed by Professor Dr. Roland Ulber, consisting of the PhD students Jens Weiermüller und Alexander Akermann, investigates which products can be obtained, when brewing residues are deployed as a fermentation medium. To this end, they use multiple microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria. During these processes, various chemical products can be produced, for example lactic acid, which might in the future serve as a feedstock for bioplastics for the industry.

Harnessing Glycerin from Fats

In the field of inorganic chemistry, the research team headed by Professor Dr. Werner Thiel with the PhD students Ranja Saynisch and Pascal Weingart is working with fats, which are present in the spent grain in high amounts. These fats contain numerous unsaturated fatty acids, which yeasts do not need for fermentation.

The chemists intent to identify those substances in more detail. In a next step, they want to prepare products for the industry. According to the scientists, it is possible to recover glycerin from fats, which then can be transformed to intermediary products for the chemical industry. One possibility is to gain precursors from unsaturated fatty acids for the plastics production. The team is now going to develop the required catalysts for this process.

Basic Research for Food Chemistry

The team from the department of food chemistry and toxicology around Professor Dr. Elke Richling and the PhD students Daniela Becker and Verena Kirsch will investigate substances and extracts obtained from brewers´ spent grain, for their biological activity. In the beginning, they have to be tested for their potential toxicological effects.

The researchers want to make sure that these substances do not pose any risk to health. They will further investigate a possible impact on the humans' sugar metabolism. There are some indicators that compounds of brewers ´spent grains prevent sugar absorption. The team will study the exact influence of these substances. Perhaps one day it will be possible to affect the glucose metabolism through the insights gained, the scientists claim. This insights are of significant importance for diabetes treatment.

Not only the TUK is involved in the "Bioval" project but also the universities from Lothringen, Liège and Saabrücken as well as the Luxembourg Institute of Health and the Belgium company Celabor. The European Structural Funds for Regional Development (Efre) supports this project with approx. $ 2.15 million. The total budget of the project amounts to more than $ 3.5 million.