Method for generating a new strain of C. celluloveorans, capable of producing n-butanol directly from crystalline cellulose to improve the current environmental and energy crisis.

The Need

Current industrial bioconversion of cellulosic biomass requires physical, chemical, and enzymatic pretreatments prior to fermentation. These pretreatments are costly and involve downstream processing. Therefore, to offer improved sustainability and cost efficiency there has been an increase in research efforts in consolidated bioprocessing (CBP), converting biomass directly into a desired product. The technique developed uses C. cellulovorans and works by converting cellulosic biomass directly into our desired end product, n-butanol, in one step. Biobutanol produced from cellulose can meet the current demand for sustainable and green biofuels and chemicals to replace petroleum based ethanol products. Today, there is a lack of native cellulolytic microbes capable of producing substantial amounts of butanol directly from cellulose; therefore, this new strain of C. cellulovorans is crucial to further develop the biofuel industry with a more economically friendly and sustainable approach.

The Market

  • n-Butanol has a current worldwide market of ~1.5 billion gallons or >$10 billion US per year.
  • The global biofuel enzyme market was valued at $535.6 million in 2011 and should reach $617.2 million in 2012. Total market value is expected to reach nearly $915 million in 2017 after increasing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2% (BCC).
  • Global revenue in the cellulosic ethanol industry was $238.9 million in 2010. Starch based ethanol followed closely behind with $230.6 million in revenue in 2010 and $230 million in revenue in 2011.
  • BCC Research predicts that the global market for energy-efficient technologies will grow at a CAGR of 9.2% for the 5-year forecast period of 2010-2015, from $200 billion in 2010 to $311.7 billion by 2015, compared to $331 billion for renewable energy.

The Technology

The Ohio State University researchers, led by Dr. Yang, developed a cost-saving and simple method for producing biofuel from cellulose. This technique works by converting cellulosic biomass directly into the desired end product, n-butanol, in one step. Additionally, this novel method eliminates the need for conventional bio-conversion process that requires pretreatments of the biomass prior to fermentation therefore reducing manufacturing costs significantly. This technology is powered by a microorganism , Clostridum cellulovarans, that has been metabolically re-engineered to convert butyl-CoA and acetyl-CoA into n-butanol and ethanol in a highly efficient manner. To our knowledge, this is the first report of metabolic engineering of C. cellulovorans for n-butanol production, which provides a promising platform for cellulosic biofuel production.

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