Millions of tonnes of grapes are turned into wine each year, but more than half of the crushed grapes end up being wasted. They don’t have enough nutritional value to be fed to animals and can’t be used as compost because they don’t degrade, so the majority become toxic landfill.
But now a PhD student from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia has found a way to use fungi to break this wine waste down into compounds that can be used to create ethanol or other biofuels.
“Various fungi are known to degrade this waste by generating an array of enzymes,” said Avinash Karpe, a PhD student with Swinburne’s Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, in a press release. “These enzymes convert the waste to soluble sugars which can then be converted into other products.”
By first heating the winery waste for half an hour, Karpe was able to use a “cocktail” of four fungi to break down the biomass, a process that took one to three weeks in a bioreactor.
The end product was alcohols, acids and simple sugars, that could have industrial and medicinal value.
His research has been published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, and Karpe is now looking into upscaling the process.
Love science and technology? Check out more of the groundbreaking research happening at Swinburne University of Technology.