Unconventional bacteria promise to lift celulosic biofuels yields: BESC study  

January 17, 2016 |

In Tennessee, a new comparative study from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory-based center finds the natural abilities of unconventional bacteria could help boost the efficiency of cellulosic biofuel production. The study is published as “Biological lignocellulose solubilization: Comparative evaluation of biocatalysts and enhancement via cotreatment” in Biotechnology for Biofuels.

The analysis demonstrated that under carefully controlled conditions, a microbe called Clostridium thermocellum is twice as effective as fungal enzymes used by industry today. The researchers also tested the different microbes’ performance with minimal pretreatment of the plant materials, indicating it may be possible to reduce or eliminate use of heat and chemicals that make the feedstock accessible to biological processing.

A team of researchers from five institutions analyzed the ability of six microorganisms to solubilize potential bioenergy feedstocks such as switchgrass that have evolved strong defenses against biological and chemical attack. Solubilization prepares the plant feedstocks for subsequent fermentation and, ultimately, use as fuel.

“Starting with nature’s best biomass-solubilizing systems may enable a reduction in the amount of nonbiological processing required to produce biofuels,” said ORNL coauthor Brian Davison. “We’re asking the question — what are nature’s best biocatalysts?”

“Eliminating both enzyme addition and conventional pretreatment is a potential game-changer,” said Dartmouth engineering professor Lee Lynd, the study’s corresponding author.

Coauthors are Dartmouth College’s Lee Lynd, Julie Paye, Anna Guseva and Sarah Hammer; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Erica Gjersing, Mark Davis, Jessica Olstad, Bryon Donohoe; ORNL’s Brian Davison; Thanh Yen Nguyen and Charles Wyman of the University of California, Riverside; and University of Georgia’s Sivakumar Pattathil and Michael Hahn.

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Category: Research

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