Fermentative production of hydrogen from a wheat flour industry co-product

Freda Hawkes, Dennis Hawkes, Giuliano Premier, Jon Maddy, Alan Guwy, Richard Dinsdale, Helen Forsey, Samantha Cherryman, James Shine, David Auty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global flour industry produces 96 million ton/year of wheatfeed, which is mainly used for animal feed. This co-product is high in carbohydrates and potentially a significant substrate for biohydrogen production. A 10 l bioreactor, inoculated with sewage sludge, was operated on wheatfeed (10 g l(-1)) at pH 5.5 and 35 degrees C in batch and semi-continuous mode (15 h hydraulic retention time (HRT)). Wheatfeed hydrolysate was also investigated in continuous mode (15 h HRT). NaOH-H2O2 treatment of 25 g l(-1) wheatfeed resulted in hydrolysate containing on average 8.1 g l(-1) total sugar. Hydrogen yields of 64 and 56 m3 H(2) per ton dry weight were produced from wheatfeed in batch and 56 m3 H2 per ton dry weight of wheatfeed in semi-continuous mode. Hydrogen yields from hydrolysate were only 22 and 31 m3 H2 per ton dry weight, (or 0.9 mol H2 per mol hexose degraded, assuming all sugar is hexose). Fermentation of unhydrolysed wheatfeed is therefore recommended. It is calculated that approximately 264 m3/ton of CH4 can be produced from a subsequent anaerobic digestion stage. The biohydrogen produced (diesel equivalents) from the 1.2 million ton/year of wheatfeed in the UK would be more than twice that required for transportation by the UK flour industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5020 - 5029
Number of pages9
JournalBioresource Technology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2007


  • fermentative production
  • hydrogen
  • wheat flour


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