Wed, Jan 03, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Team creates more efficient conversion method for biomass

Staff writer, with CNA

An international team of researchers from Taiwan, Australia, India and Bangladesh has successfully developed a method of converting agricultural biomass into commercially valuable chemicals for food and pharmaceutical companies, the Financial Express reported on Monday.

The new method is “significantly cheaper and more environmentally friendly and efficient” than existing conversion methods, because the catalyst materials used are recyclable and the process produces a high yield of valuable chemicals, the Indian English-language newspaper said.

Specifically, the researchers used “raw biomass, such as bagasse, rice husk, wheat straw, cotton stalk, corn cob and low-grade jute from different areas of India and Bangladesh, and converted it into high-value chemicals, such as xylose and arabinose, furfural and HMF [hydroxymethylfurfural],” Shahriar Hossain, a materials scientist at University of Wollongong’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, was quoted as saying.

The report quoted Wu Chia-wen (吳嘉文), a professor of chemical engineering at National Taiwan University who was also involved in the project, as saying that such chemicals have widespread uses in the food and pharmaceutical sectors.

“Xylose and arabinose ... can play an important role in the management of blood glucose and insulin levels related to sucrose intake” when used in food products, Wu said.

Furfural can be applied as “fungicides, pesticides, drugs and bioplastics, flavor enhancers,” the report said.

“This discovery will add significant economic value to the agricultural waste materials through industrialization of our technique in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries,” the researchers were quoted as saying.

Researchers from National Taiwan University, Australia’s University of Wollongong, Bangladesh’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University and Indian schools were involved in the project.

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