Hemicellulose: Lignin Etherase from Microbe B603:Feasibility of Isolation to Fractionate Wood for Chemicals

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-FG02-07ER84788
Agency Tracking Number: 82036
Amount: $749,728.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2008
Solicitation Year: 2007
Solicitation Topic Code: 06
Solicitation Number: DE-PS02-06ER06-30
Small Business Information
53 Downing Road, Bangor, ME, 04401
DUNS: 611872388
HUBZone Owned: Y
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Nancy Kravit
 (207) 942-9044
Business Contact
 Nancy Kravit
Title: Dr
Phone: (207) 942-9044
Email: ngkravit@tethysresearch.com
Research Institution
American forests have the potential to provide environmentally sustainable, carbon-neutral raw material for much of the nation¿s energy and chemical synthesis needs. However, wood has not been used to produce chemicals and biofuels because current technology cannot efficiently separate cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin (the major components of wood) for downstream processing. The major difficulty in fractionating wood is breaking the ether bonds between the lignin and hemicelluloses components. Currently, pulp and paper mills rely primarily on chemical means to break these bonds, but chemical methods have many disadvantages: damage to cellulose fibers; inability to cleanly separate the constituents; and serious environmental challenges. In this project, a fluorogenic model compound based on hemicelluloses will be used to bioprospect for enzymes that cleave the ether bonds between lignin and hemicelluloses. In Phase I, a microorganism designated B603 that secretes an enzyme capable of breaking ether bonds has been discovered. The enzyme was isolated, and its activity on native lignin-hemicelluloses complexes was verified. In Phase II, processes will be developed to (1) apply the enzyme to the pre-treatment of wood chips in pulp mills; and (2) more efficiently convert wood into chemicals, for use in integrated forest biorefineries. Finally, molecular biology techniques will be used to facilitate the large scale production of the enzyme. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits as described by the awardee: As a pre-treatment for wood chips in a pulp mill, the new enzyme should allow previously wasted hemicelluloses to be recovered and added back to the pulp, thereby increasing yield. Alternatively, the hemicellulose could be converted via fermentation into an array of fine chemicals and energy products, including ethanol. Broadly speaking, the technology would allow wood, a renewable resource, to be used to meet a significant portion of America¿s energy and chemical needs. As a consequence, the corn currently slated for ethanol production could again be directed to food products, and America¿s pulp and paper industry (and the rural towns where mills are located) would receive a much needed economic boost.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

Agency Micro-sites

SBA logo
Department of Agriculture logo
Department of Commerce logo
Department of Defense logo
Department of Education logo
Department of Energy logo
Department of Health and Human Services logo
Department of Homeland Security logo
Department of Transportation logo
Environmental Protection Agency logo
National Aeronautics and Space Administration logo
National Science Foundation logo
US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government