Integrated processing of brewer's spent grain into value-added protein feedstuff and cellulose adsorbent

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Virginia Tech


Brewer's spent grain (BSG) is the major byproduct generated by the brewing industry, which contains 14–30% protein and 50–70% of fiber. Currently, BSG is predominantly used as low-value cattle feed or buried in landfills, which is a considerable loss of valuable resources, leading to economic loss and environmental problems. Although research has been done on BSG valorization, the studies are limited to producing a single product (e.g., polyphenols, ethanol, or active carbon) and without further utilization of the produced products. Besides, the economic information available about the production of value-added products from BSG is insufficient. The overall goal of this research is to develop an integrated process to convert BSG into value-added protein-rich feedstuff and cellulose absorbent. The objectives of the research detailed here were to 1) develop a process to simultaneously produce protein-rich (PP) and fiber-rich products (FP) from BSG, 2) assess the replacement of fishmeal with PP in shrimp feed, 3) evaluate the economics of the overall process of PP production at a commercial scale, and 4) explore the potential use of cellulose adsorbent obtained from the FP in removing heavy metals from contaminated water. To attain these objectives, BSG was first subjected to a wet fractionation process to produce PP and FP using different chemical/biological treatments, where the effects of sodium hydroxide, sodium bisulfite, and a protease (Alcalase) at different concentrations were investigated. Under the optimized conditions, the produced PP contained 46% protein and less than 1% fiber. The effectiveness of using PP to replace fishmeal at increasing levels (10–70%) was then evaluated by performing shrimp feeding trials. The results showed that up to 50% of fishmeal in shrimp feed can be replaced by PP without affecting shrimp growth and feed utilization. Moving forward, a techno-economic analysis was conducted to evaluate the economic feasibility of the production of PP. The experimental conditions and results were input into the process simulation model for determining the mass and energy flows. For a processing plant with a capacity of 590 t wet BSG per day, the minimum selling price of PP to achieve a 5% return was determined to be $1044/t, lower than the price of fishmeal, indicating that the use of PP to replace fishmeal in shrimp feed could potentially reduce shrimp farming cost. The utilization of FP will further improve the economic feasibility of the fractionation process. FP was sequentially treated by dilute acid, alkali, and bleach to produce purified cellulose fibers, which were then modified by 2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-1-piperidinyloxy (TEMPO) oxidation to produce a cellulose adsorbent. The feasibility of the adsorbent in removing heavy metals (especially lead and manganese) from contaminated water was then investigated. Based on the results, the produced cellulose adsorbent showed high adsorption capacities for lead (272.5 mg/g) and manganese (52.9 mg/g). Overall, this study demonstrated that BSG can be upcycled into multiple value-added products via an integrated process. The outcomes of this study not only provide a low-cost and sustainable protein source to the aquaculture industry, and provide a novel adsorbent for the water treatment industry, but also offer alternative ways for the brewing industry to manage BSG.



Brewer's spent grain, wet fractionation, protein, shrimp, fishmeal, techno-economic analysis, cellulose adsorbent, heavy metals