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How AC FOX Works

An ethanol plant
An ethanol plant
Image courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

Imagine for a moment that you own a factory that makes ethanol fuel from corn. You are a large, industrial manufacturer of corn-based ethanol, and you can make 25 million gallons of ethanol a year.

Because gas prices are so high right now, and because the President and Congress have put a lot of emphasis on ethanol, and because GM is running their huge Go Yellow ethanol ad campaign, you should be sitting pretty. Unfortunately, you have a small problem.

The problem is the river of wastewater that corn ethanol creates. To understand this waste stream, think about the manufacturing process:

  • You take corn
  • You crush the corn
  • You mix the corn with water
  • You add enzymes (to turn the corn into simple sugars)
  • You add yeast
  • You let the yeast ferment the sugars to create alcohol.

So far so good. Now you distill the alcohol out of the water and create a gallon of ethanol that you can sell. That's great too.

The problem is that for every gallon of ethanol you sell, you also create 10 gallons of polluted water. The water that is left over after distillation is full of proteins, sugars, enzymes, bits of dead yeast cells and a little remaining alcohol. What do you do with this polluted water? And keep in mind that there are 10 gallons of polluted water for every gallon of alcohol that you create. So if you are making 25 million gallons of ethanol each year, you have to deal with 250 million gallons of polluted water. Since industrial ethanol plants typically range in size between 25 million and 100 million gallons of ethanol a year, and there are a number of these plants in the United States, you can see that ethanol wastewater becomes a big problem.

But the corn ethanol production process isn't the only manufacturing process that results in wastes and by-products. If you make biodiesel fuel, you get a by-product called crude glycerol that you have to deal with. If you have a food factory you may have a similar problem. Say you make pancake syrup or frozen pizzas, and you use water to clean parts of the assembly line. This water is now polluted, and the local sewage treatment plant may not want it. What are you going to do with it?

Now there's a completely new process available to handle water that is polluted with organic material like proteins, sugars, glycerol or even pizza debris. That process is called Activated Carbon Facilitated Oxidation, or AC FOX. AC FOX has huge advantages over the traditional ways of dealing with "organically contaminated waste streams."

In this article, you will learn all about AC FOX and how it can help manufacturers of a wide variety of products save money, help the environment and speed up their production lines. Let's take a look.