Sonobioprocessing can be used in the bioethanol industry: Bioethanol is the world’s most significant biofuel and around 85 B litres, worth $50 B, was produced in 2011 from over 500 producers. EU production is increasing constantly and currently stands at around 5 B litres. It will remain the dominant biofuel for some years to come. Importantly, global ethanol demand will represent 73% of total biofuels demand in 2020 and capacity will need to be added to keep up with demand requirements of over 180 B litres by 2020.
Current data predicts a strong increase in bioethanol capacity for near future. World production will continue to grow strongly, and will be derived from first and second generation processing.
Most bioethanol is made by first generation processes, where starches and sugars derived from food crops are used in yeast fermentation followed by distillation. In first generation processing there are some 200 corn ethanol producers in the USA alone and over 500 bioethanol producers worldwide. In the UK, Bioethanol can be economically produced by the fermentation of sugar beet (AB Sugar - some 70 M litres) or wheat (Vivergo).
However, the longer-term future of bioethanol is likely to lie with second generation processes, where various types of lignocellulosic biomass are used as the sugar sources. Terrestrial lignocellulose is the most abundant renewable feedstock on the planet, with annual production of > 200 billion tonnes, and can yield over 40% of its mass in fermentable sugars. The first commercial plants are starting to produce ethanol and many others are expected to emerge soon. According to European commission policy announcements, first generation ethanol is expected to be limited to about 5% of transport fuels with little or no expansion in production. There is now a strong impetus for a major shift to second generation ethanol production.
As an automotive fuel currently unleaded fuel on UK forecourts contains 5% bioethanol (E5). However there is a need to increase to 10% (E10) as most spark engine cars require no alteration. The major car producers can manufacture engines that can run on E55 (55% bioethanol). Ford, Volvo and Saab produce "Flex-Fuel" Vehicles (FFVs) that run on any percentage petrol-ethanol blend (up to E85). Ford has reported 70% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared with the petrol version.
Sonobioprocessing has the potential to impact the bioethanol industry including improving the bioethanol yield from waste biomass, agricultural residues, lignocellulose, and simple and complex carbohydrates.