"Vodka" from ethanol
Now that ethanol has become common in gas tanks, two Iowa State University professors are working to get it into martini glasses.Sounds like they are working on another way to get tanked. It may become another export to Russia.
The professors are researching how to easily, and cheaply, turn fuel ethanol into food-grade alcohol for beverages, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.
"We will be taking relatively abundant and cheap fuel ethanol and, for a very small amount [of money], adding a lot of value to it," said Jacek Koziel, an assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.
He said the research is focused on perfecting technologies that purify fuel ethanol, a grain alcohol most often made from corn and used as a gasoline additive. Like beverage alcohol, fuel ethanol is yeast-fermented and then distilled. However, it has many more impurities that must be removed, Mr. Koziel said.
"We are trying to fine-tune, so to speak, the process of alcohol purification," he said.
Why find another use for ethanol at a time when demand for the fuel has skyrocketed?
Because although the demand for fuel ethanol could wane if the automotive industry embraces other technology, "the demand for liquor and mouthwashes and cough syrups will always be there," said Hans van Leeuwen, a civil, construction and environmental engineering professor who is working with Mr. Koziel on the project.
"We're really just looking at a process improvement here that will save a lot of money," said Mr. van Leeuwen, who also serves as vice president of Cedar Rapids-based MellO3z, a company that has created a process for purifying alcoholic beverages.