WPI researchers develop novel process to produce isobutanol cheaper

April 18, 2019 |

In Massachusetts, taking a step closer to a “green” replacement for fossil fuels, a research team that includes a chemical engineer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a novel process using an unusual solvent and an exotic microorganism that may make it possible to manufacture isobutanol and other biofuels more economically.

In a paper published recently in Nature Communications (Engineered Microbial Biofuel Production and Recovery Under Supercritical Carbon Dioxide), Timko and colleagues describe a novel method for producing and extracting isobutanol that uses supercritical carbon dioxide as a solvent and a bacterium that can thrive in this harsh, antimicrobial liquid. The team genetically engineered the bacterium, which was isolated from a naturally occurring reservoir of high-pressure carbon dioxide, by adding genes for the production of isobutanol. They then showed how supercritical carbon dioxide could overcome two important problems that plague conventional biofuel production methods: low yields and bacterial contamination.

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Category: Research

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