A research team in Singapore may have found a good use for some of the 13 million tons of plant waste matter produced each year by palm oil extraction.
A particular by-product, known as empty fruit bunch (or EFB), is comprised primarily of a carbohydrate called xylan, which can be broken down into individual sugar molecules (i.e. xylose) using a process called hydroylsis.
Although hydrolysis is widely used to convert components of sugarcane and corn refuse into sugars, the process has, until recently, been prohibitively expensive for EFB.
Xylose is a potentially useful input for producing xylitol, and ultimately lactic acid, and ethanol. Wu was quoted: ”Next, we will convert the sugars into lactic acids by microbial fermentation using lactic acid bacteria.” This lactic acid will be used for producing polylactic acid: a renewable and biodegradable biopolymer that is stable at high temperatures and, according to WU, has broad applications.
Image Credit: Rainforest Action Network