Glycerin is the most important component in many of the products we use, from soap to cosmetics, foods and pharmaceuticals. We even use it for biofuel production, algae growth and fuel cells.
But it seems that in this moment glycerin really represents an issue as the large quantity developed by biofuel refineries cannot be assimilated by the market. The excess glycerin is incinerated on the market or illegally disposed.
But even if it sounds ironic, glycerin may be riding to its own rescue and this because it can help the biofuel industry. Rice University has developed a glycerin-gobbling microorganism that feeds on waste glycerin and turns it into fuel.
Glycos Biotechnologies, Inc. has already put the bugs on the market to turn the waste glycerin into a profit center instead of a costly liability. Besides this, the microbial bioconversion can be used to make fabrics, insulation and food products as well as additional fuels and chemicals like alcohols and acids.
GlycosBio specially designed the microbial bioconversion to be easily integrated in the refinery processes. The difference is that the conversion process requires a lower heat level and less power. The new conversion process can also work on different biofuel feedstock including algae, so finally there is a purpose for the crude glycerin that results from the biofuel production.