Genome-Enabled Advancement of Biomass to Biofuel Technology
The world needs to develop significant, viable alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuels. In particular, ethanol fuel derived from plant sources, cellulosic ethanol, is positioned to become a significant component of the transportation fuel landscape. Ethanol is readily useable as a transportation fuel, can be blended with gasoline, reduces greenhouse gases, and can be made from cellulose Â¿ the low-cost hugely-abundant material of which plants are composed. However, the complexity and cost of the current conversion process has limited the promise of cellulosic ethanol. A recently developed process has been shown to simplify and consolidate the costliest aspects of current ethanol processing technology, thereby reducing plant capital costs and promising production cost reductions on the order of 20 percent or more. The process is based upon a naturally occurring bacterium, Clostridium phytofermentans, which is uniquely capable of directly converting cellulose and hemicellulosic components of biomass to ethanol at high efficiency. However, the optimal conditions for cellulosic ethanol production by C. phytofermentans have not yet been determined. Moreover, fermentation processes utilizing abundantly produced and readily available feedstocks will need to be demonstrated and optimized. Therefore, this project will utilize recent discoveries arising from C. phytofermentans genome analyses to develop a predictive understanding of the behavior of the microbe, in order to refine the commercialization process. Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee: Although the ethanol market originated with ethanol made from high-grade starch sources such as corn kernels, growth in the market is seen as coming from ethanol derived from cellulose, due to the relatively high cost of the starches. Produced cost-competitively, ethanol has the potential to rapidly expand into the transportation fuels market.
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110 Pulpit Hill Road Amherst, MA 01002
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