As the global coronavirus health crisis continues to grip the world, the World Health Organization has recommended that individuals regularly and thoroughly clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, as part of their hand hygiene.
The ongoing pandemic has led to a surge in demand for alcohol (ethanol) based disinfectants, such as alcogel and septol, in the form of hand sanitizer.
Israel, for its part, has no local ethanol production and is completely dependent on the annual import of tens of thousands tons of ethanol. As the crisis continues, concerns have emerged of shortages of hand sanitizer in Israel as a result of quarantine conditions in other states, global demand, and import limitations.
For the first time, a groundbreaking development from Tel Aviv University researchers enables the local production of ethanol in Israel, from plant and paper waste, in a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way.
The process, which uses a novel lignin degradation method could significantly cut back on production costs and lead to a decrease in the use of edible plant sources, help protect the environment, reduce the use of various pollutants, and greenhouse gas emissions, due to environmental-friendly waste processing, Tel Aviv University (TAU) said in a statement.
Lignin is a complex macromolecule important for the formation of cell walls of plants. It exists in all types of agricultural waste.
Professor Hadas Mamane, head of Tel Aviv University’s environmental engineering program, calls the process a “game-changer” in the way that ethanol would be manufactured in Israel and remote countries where the production of ethanol is difficult.
This method was developed as part of the joint research of Prof. Mamane from the TAU School of Mechanical Engineering, Prof. Yoram Gerchman from the Oranim Academic College – Haifa University, and TAU PhD students Roi Perez, Yan Rosen and Barak Halpern.
The team at TAU has been working on the process of recycling waste and converting it into ethanol for the past five years, Prof. Mamane tells NoCamels, but the development of local ethanol production has become more significant with the prevalence of COVID-19.