SuGanit receives $1 million for cellulosic process

By Ryan C. Christiansen | January 03, 2009
Web exclusive posted Dec. 29, 2008, at 12:20 p.m. CST

Reston, Va.-based SuGanit Systems Inc. was awarded a $999,900 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Advanced Energy Program, an Ohio Department of Development fund, to scale up its cellulosic ethanol biomass pretreatment and fermentation processes. SuGanit Systems operates a research and development center at the University of Toledo Clean & Alternative Energy Incubator in Toledo, Ohio.

According to Praveen Paripati, president of SuGanit, the company has licensed the technology from the University of Toledo and has been working with researchers at the university's College of Engineering to scale up the university's cellulosic ethanol production processes.

Paripati said SuGanit has licensed two technologies from the university. "The first technology is basically a pretreatment process that's based on ionic liquid pretreatment," he said. "It helps to soften or change the cellulose biomass structure to make it a lot more amenable for the enzymes to do their hydrolysis. The other technology that we have is to ferment xylose sugars, which are five-carbon sugars, using normal yeast. The technology we have licensed from the University of Toledo helps us to ferment both glucose, as well as xylose sugars, using normal yeast, so we can get higher productivity."

According to the university, their scientists have developed a catalyst that allows unmodified, native yeast to ferment both sugars which, depending on the biomass, will increase ethanol production by 30 percent or more.

Up to this point, SuGanit has been able to use the processes to convert 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) per day of biomass to produce 0.25 kilograms (0.55 pounds) per day of ethanol using a batch process at the bench-scale. The funding will help SuGanit to work toward processing 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of biomass to produce five gallons of ethanol per day using a continuous process.

The Ohio state award is contingent upon approval from the State Controlling Board. In September, SuGanit received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. DOE for the project and in March the company also received a $250,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier program. The project began with a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.