Have you ever tasted a glass of beer? Or wine? Or liquor? The answer seems obvious. But even if you haven’t, you will certainly know that all these drinks contain an alcoholic component called ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol). What may surprise you, however, is that this chemical compound can be also used as fuel. Today we’re talking about the unexplored world of bio-ethanol thanks to a Brazilian leader in this sector: Inpasa. Ready?


What is ethanol and how is it made

Let’s start from the beginning: what is ethanol (or bio-ethanol)? How is it made? Ethanol is a volatile, flammable and colorless liquid produced by the fermentation of sugars or via enzymatic processes; if it’s derived from sugars and starch (i.e. it has an organic origin), it’s called bio-ethanol. In this blogpost we are talking about ethanol produced by the fermentation of corn, so the two terms are interchangeable. 

The process to obtain ethanol from corn involves a series of chemical reactions that transform starch into sugars and then into alcohol. In layman’s terms, the steps are the following: first, grain is ground so to break the external capsule and reach the inner starch. Second, some ingredients are added: water, enzymes and heat turn starch into sugar. Third, the process of fermentation, where sugar is converted into ethanol; this fermentation product is called “beer” and contains 16% of ethanol. Finally, distillation: beer is distilled to obtain concentrated ethanol (ethanol for fuels needs a minimum concentration of 95%).

An innovative business

In what way is this business innovative? And how can our machines help bio-ethanol producers? The answer is soon given. The main advantage of ethanol is its success as renewable fuel for vehicles: already broadly employed in South America, it can be used both as pure solution or mixed with oil. What makes it appealing is that it is potentially carbon neutral: it emits a very small percentage of CO2 compared to other fuels (both in burning emissions in vehicles and in corn emissions during its production), and, what’s more, these are compensated by the quantity of CO2 naturally absorbed by corn plants during their life. In addition, sub-products obtained by this process are not waste, but rather precious products: on the one hand there are the so-called DDG, i.e. Dried Distrillers Grain; these are a type of protein animal feed which is particularly indicated for animals and it’s currently a pearl on the market. On the other hand there’s corn oil, which has a broad application as animal feed, human feed and biofuel.

What can we do?

As specialists in weighing and dosing, our solutions turn out to be particularly reliable and accurate to control specific steps of this process. And this is not just claimed by ourselves, but also witnessed by Inpasa, one of the largest producers of corn ethanol in South America:

“It is not easy to achieve a balance in everything (chemicals, temperature and pressure) while handling liquid and grains, all mixed. That’s why, at the beginning of the process, we used Imeco scales, which have had an important role in that system, guaranteeing a control of the whole amount of corn involved and ground in the process. It is not only a matter of weighing, but also of safe operation, high precision, continuous rhythm without stops and without loose parts; in other words, it is a matter of “clean” weighing, without faults. Think about it: few minutes of failure in the weighing control result in loss of hours or even days of production. We are proud to have the best technology of corn ethanol process and reliable equipment”.

For us it’s an immense pleasure to support this producer and provide reliable solutions that can contribute to improve new technologies and processes and we are willing to help whoever would like to face this innovative challenge.


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