Technology & Science

Engineer turns beer byproducts into sweetener

Engineer in Alberta invents a way to turn beer byproducts into xylitol, a sugar substitute.

The dregs from brewing beer can be converted into a sweetener, a Canadian scientist has discovered.

After a batch of beer is brewed, grain waste is often left over and sold as cheap animal feed.

David Bressler, a professor of fermentation & bio/food engineering at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, has found a way to turn the waste into xylitol, a sugar substitute.

"We're trying to look at products that are not traditionally used at high value, and trying to get high-value applications from them," Bressler said.

The same grains are used at Permolex, an ethanol plant in Red Deer, Alta., where wheat is used to create a number of other products that leave waste.

Potentially, those wastes can also be recycled into the sweetener, creating a new business.

"It can mean significant increases to be one of our most valuable products," said Greg Hemstad, vice president of Permolex. The company is trying to determine what that value will be.

The Alberta Research Council believes the new discovery has potential to bring profit to other industries such as pulp and paper, where chemicals and energy are used to clean up waste before being pumped back into the water system.

"Why throw something away when you can actually use it again and have some benefit from it?" said Wade Chute of the council's forest products unit.

Scientists hope the discovery will have environmental benefits as well as financial ones.