Ethanol fermentation is the biological process by which sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose are converted into cellular energy and thereby produce ethanol and carbon dioxide as metabolic waste products. Yeasts carry out ethanol fermentation on sugars in the absence of oxygen. Because the process does not require oxygen, ethanol fermentation is classified as anaerobic. Ethanol fermentation is responsible for the rising of bread dough, the production of ethanol in alcoholic beverages, and for much of the production of ethanol for use as fuel.
Ethanol fermentation is responsible for the rising of bread dough. Yeast organisms consume sugars in the dough and produce ethanol and carbon dioxide as waste products. The carbon dioxide forms bubbles in the dough, expanding it into something of a foam. Nearly all the ethanol evaporates from the dough when the bread is baked.
Similar yeast fermentation of various carbohydrate products is used to produce much of the ethanol used for fuel.
The dominant ethanol feedstock in warmer regions is sugarcane. In temperate regions Approximately 2.8 gallons of ethanol are produced from one bushel of corn (0.42 liter per kilogram). While much of the corn turns into ethanol, some of the corn also yields by-products such as DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles) that can be used to fulfill a portion of the diet of livestock. A bushel of corn produces about 18 pounds of DDGS. Although most of the fermentation plants have been built in corn-producing regions, sorghum is also an important feedstock for ethanol production in the Plains states. Pearl millet is showing promise as an ethanol feedstock for the southeastern U.S.
In some parts of Europe, particularly France and Italy, wine is used as a feedstock due to a massive oversupply termed wine lake. Japan is hoping to use rice wine (sake) as an ethanol source.
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