Cellulosic Biofuels

Biosynthesis of fuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass represents a promising and sustainable alternative to present petroleum based production. However, high processing costs and inefficient biocatalysts remain key
barriers to commercialization. Ecovia and our colleagues at the University of Michigan are working to develop efficient, lower-cost co-culture routes for cellulosic biofuel production.

Production of Methyl Ketones from Lignocellulosic Biomass

In conjunction with colleagues at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, Ecovia is developing synthetic microbial consortia consisting of cellulolytic fungi and metabolically engineered bacteria. This new biochemical route allows consolidated bioprocessing of lignocellulosic biomass to medium chain methyl ketones (MCMKs), promising renewable diesel blendstocks and high-value specialty chemicals. In Phase I, the focus of our grant with the Department of Energy is to address critical early-stage technical risks and to establish the basic feasibility of producing these chemicals via engineering and characterization of microbial co-cultures. Commercializing co-culture production of cellulosic MCMKs entails two aspects of development. Specifically, MCMK production will be integrated into a fungal-bacterial co-culture platform and the system will be further engineered towards economically viable performance. In parallel, MCMK fuel properties and specifications for specialty chemical applications will be validated and optimized.

Read full abstract on the Department of Energy's website here.

Non-Proprietary Proof-Of-Concept: Cellulosic Isobutanol

Through research at the University of Michigan, Dr. Minty and Dr. Lin developed a microbial ecosystem for producing the next-generation biofuel isobutanol from renewable lignocellulosic biomass as a proof-of-concept demonstration. This system utilizes a stable and tunable mixed culture of cellulotyic fungi and isobutanol producing bacteria to accomplish conversion of abundant and low-cost lignocellulosic biomass in a single bioreactor. We demonstrated direct conversion of AFEX-pretreated switchgrass and corn stover to isobutanol, with preliminary titers up to 1.8 g/L and 62% theoretical yield. The team published this work to raise awareness of our technology and share our results with scientific community. Through on-going research at the University of Michigan, Dr. Lin is optimizing this system to improve performance. For further information please see:

J. Minty, M. Singer, S. Scholz, C.H. Bae, J. Ahn, C. Foster, J.C. Liao, and X. Lin. “Design and characterization of synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for direct production of isobutanol from cellulosic biomass”. PNAS (2013), 110 (36)