SBIR Phase I:Overcoming the Recalcitrance of Cellulose
This SBIR Phase I project will test and develop the concept of enhancing the conversion of cellulose to glucose by providing the accessibility of the enzymes to the cellulose fibers at the nanoscale level. The project addresses a serious deficiency that currently exists in bio-fuels production from cellulose-based biomass. The goal is to increase the disaggregation of cellulose and starch so that it can be subsequently degraded using enzymes to a greater degree than presently possible. This "pre-treatment" process will allow enhanced conversion of starch and cellulose to simple sugars and allow for higher rates of anaerobic methane production.
The broader/commercial impact of the project will include creation of a pre-treatment approach leading to the ability to overcome a current limitation in the biodegradation and conversion of cellulose and starch (biomass) to bio-fuels. This could make bio-fuels more available in the longer term using a wider variety of residual biomass as feed stocks. It is likely that glucose from cellulose would become economically competitive with corn starch based glucose for production of bio-fuels, both ethanol and higher alcohols. This technology could produce cellulosic bio-fuels with an incubation time comparable to current starch-based production methods.
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