CUTC: Researchers continue to study corn utilization

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 02, 2008
Web exclusive posted June 6, 2008 at 11:20 a.m. CST

Researchers continue to search for new products from corn to provide new revenue streams for ethanol plants through value-added coproducts and entirely new uses for corn. The latest developments were reported by academic and industry researchers at the 2008 Corn Utilization Technology Conference, sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association and held June 2-4 in Kansas City, Mo.

Corn may become the next health food craze if the work of Mario Ferruzzi, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, becomes well known in discovering high micronutrient components of corn that can outdo carrots and tomatoes.

Rawle Hollingsworth, director of the center for renewable resources at Michigan State University, and Mike Jaffe, professor of biomedical engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, dug into the details of promising chemical compounds that can be derived from corn for the development of replacements for petroleum based coatings and polymers, as well as numerous new compounds that show potential. Hollingsworth pointed out that the cholesterol lowering drug Crestor, which is derived from corn-based chemicals, produce products worth $250,000 per ton, although the total tonnage used isn't very great.

Industry representatives contributed to the discussion of recent research developments as well. Kyle Beery, senior processing engineer with Archer Daniels Midland Co., described the company's research it has conducted with the University of Illinois to combine distillers grains with crop residues and fiber byproducts to produce corn replacement pellets. Randall Deinhammer with Novozymes North America Inc. described the company's work with protein engineering and the progress made with improving enzymes for ethanol production such as new glucoamylases for more efficient starch conversion and no-cook enzymes to reduce ethanol plants' energy requirements. Poet Research chief science officer Steve Lewis described his company's experience with Novozymes' no-cook enzymes which are also called low temperature hydrolysis enzymes, cold hydrolysis or raw starch enzymes. Poet is calling its patented process BPX, and is seeing a reduction in the amount of enzymes used and in performance since they first introduced the technology in 2002.

Besides new uses, enzymes and dry milling developments other tracks in the CUTC program covered wet milling, biotechnology, distillers grains and emerging issues.