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SBIR Phase II: Microbial Fermentation Bioprocess to Produce and Extract Platform Chemicals from the Dairy Industry Acid Whey Waste Stream.


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project is to commercialize a novel fermentation technology offering a sustainable solution for dairy industry waste issues. The system is initially focused on upcycling acid whey waste from Greek yogurt production into treated water and natural food-grade bio-oils that are sustainable alternatives for chemicals sourced from palm oil. These systems will be installed on-site at yogurt plants and are expected to lower customer expenses by at least 20%, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption by 90%. This pilot project will inform treatment of other problematic wastes, such as process line cleaning water and manure, as well as milk and cheese processing byproducts. The bio-oils produced this way could serve as animal feed and as drop-in alternatives for biofuels. <br/><br/>This SBIR Phase II project proposes to optimize the system design of a novel fermentation technology. Evaluations are focused on upcycling acid whey waste from Greek yogurt production into treated water and bio-oil. Project objectives include: 1) bench-scale evaluations on bioreactor architecture and operating parameters, such as internal packing materials, gas dosing flowrates, and pH control; 2) bench-scale mass transfer optimizations performed on the current bio-oil extraction architecture, as well as on a novel membrane-less alternative. Results from bench-scale studies will inform process design and construction of a 2,000-gallon demonstration system installed at a Greek yogurt plant, where parallel bioprocesses will systematically evaluate operational parameters (temperature, pH, flow) at a larger scale to explore the trade space of acid whey treatment, production of bio-oil, and operating cost and optimize the operating parameters.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Juan Guzman
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