Conversion of distiller's grain into fuel alcohol and a higher-value animal feed by dilute-acid pretreatment.

Melvin P. Tucker, Nicholas J. Nagle, Edward W. Jennings, Kelly N. Ibsen, Andy Aden, Quang A. Nguyen, Kyoung H. Kim, Sally L. Noll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Over the past three decades ethanol production in the United States has increased more than 10-fold, to approx 2.9 billion gal/yr (mid-2003), with ethanol production expected to reach 5 billion gal/yr by 2005. The simultaneous coproduction of 7 million t/yr of distiller's grain (DG) may potentially drive down the price of DG as a cattle feed supplement. The sale of residual DG for animal feed is an important part of corn dry-grind ethanol production economics; therefore, dry-grind ethanol producers are seeking ways to improve the quality of DG to increase market penetration and help stabilize prices. One possible improvement is to increase the protein content of DG by converting the residual starch and fiber into ethanol. We have developed methods for steam explosion, SO2, and dilute-sulfuric acid pretreatment of DG for evaluation as a feedstock for ethanol production. The highest soluble sugar yields (approximately 77% of available carbohydrate) were obtained by pretreatment of DG at 140 degrees C for 20 min with 3.27 wt% H2SO4. Fermentation protocols for pretreated DG were developed at the bench scale and scaled to a working volume of 809 L for production of hydrolyzed distiller's grain (HDG) for feeding trials. The pretreated DG was fermented with Saccharomyces cerevisiae D5A, with ethanol yields of 73% of theoretical from available glucans. The HDG was air-dried and used for turkey-feeding trials. The inclusion of HDG into turkey poult (as a model non-ruminant animal) diets at 5 and 10% levels, replacing corn and soybean meal, showed weight gains in the birds similar to controls, whereas 15 and 20% inclusion levels showed slight decreases (-6%) in weight gain. At the conclusion of the trial, no negative effects on internal organs or morphology, and no mortality among the poults, was found. The high protein levels (58-61%) available in HDG show promising economics for incorporation of this process into corn dry-grind ethanol plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1159
Number of pages21
JournalApplied Biochemistry and Biotechnology - Part A Enzyme Engineering and Biotechnology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Mar 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of the Biomass Program.


  • Animal feed
  • Corn dry-grind
  • Distiller's grain
  • Enzymatic hydrolysis
  • Ethanol
  • Pretreatment


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