Production of Methyl Ethyl Ketone by a New Method from Corn Fiber

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2002-33610-11880
Agency Tracking Number: 2002-00417
Amount: $80,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2002
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
4200 North 300 West, West Lafayette, IN, 47906
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 George Tsao
 Vice President of R and D
 (765) 463-6043
Business Contact
 Ruby Tsao
Title: President
Phone: (765) 463-6043
Research Institution
This project deals with production of methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) from corn fiber. Corn fiber is consisted of mostly hemicellulose that can be hydrolyzed to produce a mixture of sugars. Extensive work has been done on fermentation by Klebsiela oxytoca that can metabolize all hemicellulose sugars and give a 50% weight yield of a compound called 2,3-butanediol (BDO). BDO has a boiling point of 180/o/C. To recover BDO from fermented broth involves energy intensive evaporation of a large amount of water and then vacuum distillation. BDO can be converted into MEK by dehydration. MEK with a boiling point of 79.6/o/C can be purified by simple distillation. Work has been done on dehydration of pure BDO to MEK with sulfuric acid as a catalyst. This project has its objective of testing the use of crude BDO in fermented broth, without first being purified, directly in dehydration. If successful, a 2-step process will be possible for conversion of corn fiber first to BDO by fermentation and then to MEK by acidic dehydration. Impurities in the fermented broth including residual sugars and proteins have been reported to interfere with the dehydration reaction. This Phase I project work is to eliminate such possible interferences by different methods including complete sugar metabolism, pretreatment of ion exchange resins and/or activated carbon, etc. Work will also be done using solid acids such as zeolite ZSM-5 to replace sulfuric acid in dehydration. The zeolite cage structures may reject large molecules such proteins from interfering. Use of solid acid also avoids otherwise a waste sulfuric acid stream. The activity half-life of zeolite in an aqueous reaction will be carefully determined.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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