Mexican university makes biofuel from wine and cheese wasteBy Phoebe French
The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) is using waste products from the wine and cheese industries to produce hydrogen and methane.
Researchers working in the university’s engineering department in the Mexican state of Querétaro are undertaking the project. Led by researcher Germán Buitrón Méndez, the team is using grape marc and whey to create the two gases, which are then used to generate so-called clean electricity.
Buitrón Méndez said in a statement that the marc was collected from wineries in the local area (between the cities of Tequisquiapan and Ezequiel Montes) from June to November, while the whey is obtained throughout the rest of the year.
According to the Querétaro Wine Growers Association (AVQ), the state is the largest wine-producing region in the lowlands of Mexico with a total of 28 wineries.
The waste products are taken to the laboratory where they are broken down using microorganisms (bacteria and archaea) to produce the gaseous biofuels.
Buitrón Méndez said that the grape marc has an “acidic pH, which is ideal for starting the two-stage process”. The hydrogen and methane are produced in two separate reactors, with the hydrogen reactor requiring an acidic pH and while the methane reactor has a neutral pH.
Buitrón Méndez and his team have fully automated the process, creating the ideal conditions for the maximum production of both gases.
The researchers then send the biofuel to the wineries and cheese factories that supplied the original waste with the aim of making them self-sufficient.