IIT Guwahati develops new method to produce sugar substitute ‘Xylitol’ from sugarcane waste

IIT Guwahati researchers developed an ultrasound-assisted fermentation method to overcome operational limits, time delays of the conventional method.

IIT Guwahati (Source: Official)IIT Guwahati (Source: Official)

Vagisha Kaushik | August 23, 2022 | 02:13 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati Researchers have developed an ultrasound-assisted fermentation method to produce a safe sugar substitute called ‘Xylitol’ from sugarcane bagasse (the residue left after crushing of sugarcane). This method overcomes the operational limitations of chemical methods of synthesis and the time delays associated with conventional fermentation.

“With increasing awareness of the adverse effects of white sugar (sucrose), not only for patients with diabetes but also for general health, there has been a rise in the consumption of safe alternative sweeteners. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from natural products, has potential antidiabetic and anti-obesogenic effects, is a mild prebiotic and protects teeth against caries,” said an official statement from IITG.

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The research team was led by Professor VS Moholkar, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati, and included Dr Belachew Zegale Tizazu and Dr Kuldeep Roy who co-authored the research papers.

The IIT Guwahati researchers used two approaches to overcome the two problems:

  • First, they used sugarcane bagasse, the waste fibrous material produced after extracting juice from sugarcane, as the raw material. This overcomes the cost limitations of current xylitol synthesis methods and provides a method to upcycle a waste product.
  • Secondly, they used a new type of fermentation process wherein, the microbe-induced synthesis of xylitol is hastened by the application of ultrasound waves.

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Highlighting the importance of this research, Moholkar said, “The use of ultrasound during the fermentation process not only reduced the time of fermentation to 15 hours (against almost 48 hours in conventional processes), but also increased the yield of the product by almost 20%. The researchers used only 1.5 hours of ultrasonication during the fermentation, which means that not much ultrasound power was consumed in the process. Thus, xylitol production from sugarcane bagasse using ultrasonic fermentation is a potential opportunity for forward integration of sugarcane industries in India”.

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