Design of a Non-Alcoholic Beer and Alcoholic Kombucha Manufacturing Process; A Technological Momentum Analysis of the Time-Dependent Relationship between Erythropoietin and Society

Zhao, Gloria, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, EN-Chem Engr Dept, University of Virginia

My technical work and STS research paper vastly differ in topic. However, both explore technologies that have the power to influence societal values. My technical work focuses on the design of a manufacturing process producing two beverages: non-alcoholic beer and alcoholic kombucha. On the other hand, my STS research paper explores the evolving relationship between erythropoietin technology and society. Though seemingly unrelated, both projects explore consumer-oriented products that exhibit influence on the society that creates them.

My technical work involves the design of a conceptual manufacturing process producing two beverages: a 0.5% ABV non-alcoholic all-american light lager and a 5.5% ABV alcoholic raspberry black tea kombucha. The beer process begins with milling grain, mashing with water, adding hops and yeast nutrient, boiling, and clarifying. Next, the beer undergoes three fermentation stages with a bottom-fermenting yeast, S. pastorianus. Afterwards, the beer is pushed through a semipermeable membrane in a reverse osmosis process to separate ethanol and water from the beer. The ethanol and water mixture is further separated in a distillation column, after which the extracted ethanol is combined with the kombucha product. The beer is mixed with carbon dioxide and sodium benzoate to create the final lager, which is then canned and pasteurized. On the other hand, kombucha is steeped with tea leaves, sugar, and water, and then sent to a fermentation tank with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The beverage is mixed with the ethanol from the beer process, carbon dioxide, and raspberry juice to create the final kombucha product, which is then sent to canning.

My STS research paper explores the evolving relationship between erythropoietin technology (EPO) and society through the case of American professional road cyclist Lance Armstrong, who confessed to performance-enhancing drug use including EPO in 2013. My argument draws upon scholar Thomas P. Hughes’s technological momentum framework, which characterizes technologies as having a time-dependent relationship with society such that initially, societies shape technologies, and over time as technologies gain momentum, technologies shape societies. In the paper, I explore the claim that erythropoietin technology, initially shaped by the societal values of public health and care for the purpose of clinical administration to patients with chronic anemia, gained momentum through increased knowledge and broadened scope, and therefore influences values of fairness and integrity with regards to the professional sports industry and Lance Armstrong’s case.

Working on both projects simultaneously was a valuable endeavor. In particular, my STS research prompted reflection on the social implications of my technical work. Through examining how EPO technology affects societal values, I reflected upon how the beverage products may have societal impacts as well; namely, implications with regards to alcoholism and underage drinking. This was especially relevant because the beverages are unconventional products and may be misleading to consumers at first glance. This prompted my capstone group to carefully consider the labeling and marketing of the beverages to ensure that the products would contribute productively to those social issues, rather than worsening them. Then, examining the societal impacts of my technical work allowed me to realize other societal impacts of EPO technology which I was able to explore in my STS research paper. Altogether, working on both projects allowed me to broaden my perspective and improve the quality of both works.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
dealcoholization, non-alcoholic beer, kombucha, erythropoietin

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering

Technical Advisor: Eric Anderson

STS Advisor: Benjamin Laugelli

Technical Team Members: Christopher Griffis, Sara Reisz, Patrick Salvanera

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