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Making whey (and ice) go away.

A process for converting whey left over from cheese processing into acetic acid could dramatically reduce the cost of a noncorrosive, environmentally safe deicer now in limited use.

This two-stage fermentation process requires no oxygen, so it produces acetic acid much more efficiently than other processes, says Shang-Tian Yang, a chemical engineer who developed the technique at Ohio State University in Columbus. First, bacteria commonly used for making cheese turn the milk sugars in whey into lactic acid. Then, different bacteria take up lactic acid for energy and produce acetic acid as a metabolic by-product with almost 100 percent efficiency, he says.

If Yang adds dolomitic lime during this second step, the acetic acid reacts with the lime to form calcium-magnesium acetate, known as the deicer CMA.

In the past, the relatively high cost of acetic acid made this biodegradable deicer 50 times more expensive than salt. The new process not only deals with the dairy industry's annual need to get rid of 28 billion pounds of surplus whey, but also can cut the cost of acetic acid by more than half, says Yang. He described this process in the 1992 Proceedings of the Dairy Products Technical Conference.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 18, 1992
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