JBEI develops one-pot process for cellulosic ethanol

January 14, 2016 |

In California, led by Seema Singh and Blake Simmons, JBEI researchers have developed a “high-gravity” one-pot process for producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass that gives unprecedented yields while minimizing water use and waste disposal. The process utilizes a combination of ionic liquid pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification, and yeast fermentation for the production of concentrated fermentable sugars that result in high-titer cellulosic ethanol. “High gravity” means high biomass loading – the higher the biomass loading, the lower the costs for converting it to fuels.

“Our new one-pot process for making cellulosic ethanol was enabled by the discovery and use of a renewable ionic liquid derived from amino acids that commercially available enzyme mixtures and organisms can tolerate,” says Simmons, a chemical engineer who is JBEI’s Chief Science and Technology Officer and heads the institute’s Deconstruction Division. “This eliminates the need for separations, recoveries and other operational steps, generating significant cost savings.”

Ionic liquids are powerful solvents that can be used to deconstruct (dissolve) cellulosic biomass into sugars for the production of fuels. The renewable ionic liquid to which Simmons refers is one made from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries. The discovery of the unique properties of this “bionic” liquid was also led by Singh and Simmons.

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Category: Fuels

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