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Sweet sweet straw

This news release is available in German.

Erythritol has many great advantages: it does not make you fat, it does not cause tooth decay, it has no effect on the blood sugar and, unlike other sweeteners, it does not have a laxative effect. In Asia it is already widely used and it is becoming more and more common in other parts of the world too. Up until now, erythritol could only be produced with the help of special kinds of yeast in highly concentrated molasses. At the TU Vienna, a method has now been developed to produce the sweetener from ordinary straw with the help of a mould fungus. The experiments have been a big success, and now the procedure will be optimized for industry.

From Straw via Sugar to Erythritol

Straw is often considered to be worthless and is therfore burnt, but it can be a precious resource. Some of its chemical components can be made into valuable products. First, the finely chopped straw has to be "opened up": with the help of solvents, the cell walls are broken, the lignin is dissolved away. The remaining xylan and cellulose are then processed further.

"Usually the straw has to be treated with expensive enzymes to break it down into sugar", says Professor Robert Mach (Vienna University of Technology). "In highly concentrated molasses, special strains of yeast can then turn the sugar into erythritol, if they are placed under extreme osmotic stress."

Mould Fungus Makes Intermediate Step Obsolete

The enzymes opening up the straw can be obtained with the help of the mould fungus Trichoderma reesei. This kind of mould also plays the leading role in the new production process developed at the Vienna University of Technology.

Two big advantages have been achieved by genetically modifyin

Contact: Florian Aigner
Vienna University of Technology

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