Electroporation for the Processing of Sugarcane, Algae, and Soybeans

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Electroporation is not presently used for the processing of sugar from cane or oil extraction from algae and soybeans. In each case more expensive processes are involved. For sugar cane, it is either heat and denaturization or slow diffusion. With algae and soybeans, it is pressing accompanied by drying for the algae.

The Center for Electro-Mechanics has created a new invention that uses an electrical field to modify cell walls to process sugar from sugar cane, oil (lipids) from algae, and oil from soybeans. Conventionally, electroporation is a term used to describe the process in which an electrical field is used to open a temporary pore in a cell to introduce material, such as a drug or DNA. The system described herein is expected to create permanent damage and/or destroy the cellular structure in order to remove the sugars or lipids from inside the cell.

This process, when properly controlled, provides a low cost, low energy method of extracting raw materials needed in the production of ethanol or biodiesel.


  • Reduced processing costs
  • Tunable system provides multiple target markets

Market Potential/Applications

The most immediate application with sugar cane is to integrate electro-distention treatment into the first stage of a diffusion plant. Subsequent washing and percolation chambers will remove the sugar from the cells without the long residence time. Preliminary experiments show the process to be effective for increasing sugar removal from un-shredded billeted cane.

The most prominent application for algae treatment is to remove lipids from algae in situ. The algae can be passed through test cell plates in their natural media (whether fresh or salt water) and then through a separations system to capture the oils.

For further information please contact

University of Texas,
Austin, USA
Website : www.otc.utexas.edu