Understand efficient utilization of lignocellulosic biomass for biofuels production
Efficient and economical extraction of mono-sugars from lignocellulosic biomass without the generation of significant amounts of compounds that are inhibitory to fermenting microorganisms is fundamental to the economic viability of alternative liquid fuels or chemicals production from lignocellulosic substrates. Dr. Thaddeus Ezeji’s team is currently constructing a customized biomass pretreatment reactor with unique features, such as rapid attainment of process temperature, even distribution of wet heat in the biomass, release of pretreated biomass at variable pressures, and controlled oxidations following pretreatment for efficient deconstruction to fermentable sugars. They expect to potentiate hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass and its bioconversion to butanol. In addition, gaining insight into molecular mechanisms with which lignocellulosic-derived microbial inhibitory compounds affect fermenting cultures during acetone butanol ethanol (ABE) fermentation is essential as well. Dr. Ezeji’s team has identified one mechanism with which C. beijerinckii 8052 uses to mitigate inhibitory effects of low concentrations of lignocellulosic-derived inhibitory compounds, and potential target genes for strain improvements by genetic engineering.