Costa Rican graduate students produce biodiesel from whey

A group of graduate biotechnologists from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC) has for four years been conducting research with whey and its potential in biodiesel production.

The entrepreneurial project – called Cibus 3.0 – seeks to utilise bacteria to convert the dairy by-product into biofuel usable in transportation, industrial machinery and other sectors.

Whey is a liquid produced through the coagulation of milk during the cheese making process, containing 94% water, protein, and fat.

According to engineer David Garcia, coordinator of the project, the idea to use whey came as a response to a waste problem in companies that manufacture dairy products.

"We’re curios about taking a massive-scale industrial waste product, such as whey, and turning it into a form of environmentally friendly energy. Usually, dairy producers dispose of whey without giving any though to its possible uses, "Garcia said.

The first two years of the research project concentrated on studying what kind of results could be achieved from processing whey with bacteria.

Afterwards, business experts joined the project in order to turn it from simply research into a company.

To finance the project, the young researchers received support from different companies, organisations, and entrepreneurs.

The Cibus 3.0 project is expected to wrap to a close by the end of the year so that the results can be presented in 2017.