UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Biochemical Engineering team win £207k Newton award

19 April 2016

Research highlight: ‘Towards a sustainable bio-economy in Colombia: Vinasse valorisation and bioprocessing’.

John Ward (PI), Brenda Parker and Gary Lye (Biochemical Engineering) have won a £207k British Council Newton Fund International Links award with Icesi University (Columbia).

Over 500.000 litres of vinasse are produced daily in Colombia by sugar and yeast production industries. Due to its application as fertilizer with an unbalanced nutritional composition, it is polluting soils and groundwater sources. Icesi has previously identified and quantified in vinasse aconitic acid (TAA), a biopolymer precursor, although extracting TAA will not substantially change its composition. UCL has been working on fractionating and valorising UK-based renewable feedstocks. Thus, to address this environmental threat we propose a long-term research and training partnership between UCL and Icesi, aiming at: (i) developing a bioprocess strategy for the vinasse resulting in the extraction and use of valuable chemicals and (ii) the production of nutrient-rich digestate and biogas for its use by the Colombian farming community. The above will result in a reduction of environmental pollution, economical valorisation of the byproduct, and savings to the sugarcane industry.