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Tomorrow’s alcohol can be made from surplus lactose

New technology from Technical University of Denmark (DTU) can convert lactose (milk sugar) from dairy by-products into alcohol. This technology optimises production even for small dairies.

Dairy production of cheese generates a considerable amount of the by-product whey. While large cheese producers are able to extract more value from the whey through further processing, many smaller dairies do not have the necessary technology and know-how to do so. As such, whey is of very low value to them and is often either sold for animal feed or discarded. However, with the new technology, even the smaller dairies can reap the benefits of whey.

Bacteria converts lactose into alcohol

Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, have developed a patented technology which uses lactic acid bacteria to efficiently convert lactose from the whey into ethanol. Ethanol is the type of alcohol that is found in spirits. The researchers have formed the company Alcowhey, which aims to help smaller dairies use the patented technology to create more value from the whey they produce. The dairies can sell the ethanol to distillers, who can use it in the production of spirits.

“The National Food Institute has a focus on better utilization of raw materials in food production in order to minimize the waste of resources. The Alcowhey-process has a number of advantages compared with similar yeast technologies, which makes it attractive even on a small scale and the alcohol, we can produce is very pure and suitable for the production of spirits,” says professor Peter Ruhdal Jensen from the National Food Institute, Denmark.

The new technology help turn a waste product into a profitable product

The Danish investment and development company CAPNOVA has given Alcowhey start-up capital in the form of a EUR 67.000 loan with a view to investing a further EUR 402.857,60 down the line. ”Alcowhey is interesting because it is a project with an impact. It both solves an environmental challenge for the dairy industry and converts a by-product into a high-value product. By using the technology from Alcowhey, the dairy industry and dairies can develop a new business area. What is good for the environment is also good for customers and the business,”  says investment manager at CAPNOVA Louise Heiberg.

Incubator at Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

As a DTU spin-out company, Alcowhey will continue to be based at DTU over the next couple of years. Here the company can make use of the laboratory facilities and work in synergy with the Research Group for Microbial Biotechnology and Biorefining. Several dairies have already shown an interest in the technology and Alcowhey is looking into ways of working with distilleries.

Visit this homepage, if you want to know more about Alcowhey.
Want to know how the Danish food cluster produces more with less? Take a look here.

Source: DTU, Technical University of Denmark