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Utilization of renewable energy as a sustainable alternative to rapidly decreasing crude reserves has enhanced biofuel production
globally. Various progresses have occurred in the field of bioethanol fermentation technology since it can be used as a direct
substitute for fossil fuel in transportation. Research efforts nowadays are directed towards cheap sources of ethanol such as
lignocellulosic substrates that are cost competitive and sustainable. Sugarcane which is abundantly available in India produces 0.25-
0.3 MT of sugarcane tops (an agricultural waste left after harvest) for every 1 MT of sugarcane and has been used as the substrate of
interest. Some of the major challenges in bioethanol production are the recalcitrant lignin, high cost of holocellulase and inadequate
or non-utilization of pentose fraction during fermentation that has grave impediment in attaining a cost effective and viable process.
Efforts were made to overcome the mentioned obstacles by adapting an eco-friendly biotechnological process. Pretreatment and
saccharification were conducted using in-house produced laccase and holocellulase respectively. In the present study, the potential
of ethanol production from sugarcane tops was assessed by subjecting the enzymatically pretreated substrate to co-fermentation. C6
and C5 utilizing strains were used for simultaneous fermentation of hexose and pentose sugars of the pretreated sugarcane tops. Cofermentation
was able to increase the ethanol yield and reduce the fermentation time. The effect of several key factors was investigated
besides fermentation time, including hexose: pentose strain ratio, substrate loading, temperature and inoculation size since these
process parameters play a major role in making the process economical. Thus, sugarcane tops subjected to co-fermentation was able
to increase the substrate loading to 25% (w/v) giving maximum ethanol titre of 7.56 % (v/v) in 22-24 h.
Knawang Chhunji Sherpa is currently pursuing her PhD at PK Sinha Centre for Bioenergy, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India. Her research work is focused on second generation bioethanol using sugarcane tops as lignocellulosic biomass.