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University researchers raise a toast to biofuel prospects

US university researchers have discovered new uses for the waste byproducts of beer brewing including food proteins and biofuels.

Craft brewing has increased in popularity in recent years with the corresponding increase in waste by-products – 85% of which is grain. The spent grain byproduct is roughly 30% protein and 70% fibre.

Traditionally, the spent grain is sold off as cattle feed, or dumped in landfills. However, with 30% protein researchers believe there are biofuel opportunities.

“Spent grain has a very high percentage of protein compared to other agricultural waste, so our goal was to find a novel way to extract and use it,” said Yanhong He, a graduate student at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, or Virginia Tech.

Haibo Huang, the project’s principal investigator developed a wet milling fractionation process that allowed them to recapture up to 83% of the spent grain’s protein. By eliminating the high-fibre content, the protein concentrate can be used as a food source.

There is also hope of taking the fibre-rich waste and turning it into biofuel.

They said the research was a promising development for the brewing industry and one that could have far-reaching impact on the biofuel industry as well.
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