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NTU Singapore scientists invent new process to turn brewer’s waste into liquid nutrient

DBR Staff Writer Published 31 August 2017

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have used brewery waste to grow yeast required to make beer.

A new process has been invented by scientists to turn spent brewery grains into a product that can grow beer yeast, which is the key ingredient for fermentation.

Under the fermentation process, sugars from the grains will be converted into alcohol, which forces to use vast amounts of yeast in the beer brewing process.

It is estimated that about 85% of a brewery’s waste includes spent grain. This has virtually no value and hence is used as compost or animal feed.

The beery industry has been looking for new approaches to extract value or to re-use this waste.

NTU researchers have identified a way through which a brewery could turn brewer’s waste in to something useful. They have created a new conversion process which turns the brewer’s waste into a nutrients-filled liquid, similar to commercial liquid nutrients that are sold for $30 per litre.

The research team produced the nutrient-filled liquid at a fraction of the cost. The team consists of NTU’s Food Science and Technology Programme Director Professor William Chen and, NTU’s Interdisciplinary Graduate School PhD student Sachindra Cooray.

Chen said: “We have developed a way to use food-grade microorganisms to convert the spent grains into basic nutrients that can be easily consumed by yeast.

“About 85% of the waste in brewing beer can now be turned into a valuable resource, helping breweries to reduce waste and production cost while becoming more self-sustainable.”

This research development is now being looked international brewing companies and Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) in Singapore with keen interest for its low-cost benefits. Chen is in talks with several companies to license and commercialise this technology.

NTU School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering interim chair Associate Professor Xu Rong stated that due to an increasing global population is already straining conventional food sources and there is a need to innovate new foods and processes to fill the gap.

She said: “Discovering new uses for different types of natural food grade microbes in waste-to-nutrient technology is the latest breakthrough by NTU chemical and bioengineers, which can help to address the food security issues faced by the world presently.

“By upcycling waste to usable nutrients, conventional resources used to grow yeast can now be diverted into the production of wholesome foods.”

Presently, more than 193 billion litres of beer is produced annually worldwide, while 39 million tonnes of spent grain is being generated, this amounts to one kilogram of spent grain being produced for every five litres of beer.


Image: NTU research team finds way to reduce waste in beer-making. Photo: Courtesy of Nanyang Technological University.