Tushar Jain’s Bead Fermentation Method
When Tushar Jain, who had designed biodiesel plants in his home country of India, heard that the University of Idaho Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department decided to diversify its research into biofuels like lignocellulosic ethanol, he chose to join the BAE graduate program. As part of a project funded by the Idaho National Laboratory, Center of Advanced Energy Studies, Tushar’s graduate research was in lignocellulosic ethanol production, using plant and woody fibrous material to create ethanol.
Part of Tushar’s research involved fermentation of sugars produced from woody material. During a discussion of fermentation methods, another student in his department shared his experience with the Brazilian fermentation method for producing ethanol, which uses a high amount of yeast. When they tried to implement this method in Tushar’s research, the result was a foamy, frothy gas bubbling mess. This same student pointed to the foam and said, “Tushar, fix that foaming problem, and you’ll revolutionize the industry”.
This method of fermentation was called the Melle-Boinot method of fermentation, and is considered the industry standard in Brazil for producing ethanol from sugar. The Melle-Boinot method of fermentation was revolutionary, cutting hours off the fermentation time of traditional methods. But, it has inherent problems that require costly solutions in the industry – most notably, the need for expensive anti-foaming agents; a centrifuge to separate the yeast from the liquid; and cooling equipment to deal with the high heat generated.
Tushar, who recently received his PhD at the university, has succeeded in the first task, producing a method of alcohol fermentation that doesn’t require foaming agents; can be easily separated from the liquid for reuse; require no nutrients; and, as a bonus, increases ethanol yield by five percent. He did this by manufacturing a small bead, derived from yeast and enzymes, which quietly ferments sugars and carbohydrates creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. This project received a Higher Education Research Council GAP funding award of $45,000 to further the commercialization of this research innovation.
The University of Idaho is in the process of patenting this fermentation method, and will license the patent to Tushar. He and his business partner Josh Riley, University of Idaho business graduate have started a company, MuPor Technologies , to market and sell these beads to ethanol and alcohol beverage producers. Tushar and Josh have won both university and state business plan competitions for their new startup.
The following video shows Tushar Jain’s revolutionary fermentation method in action.