Dutch researchers make breakthrough in bioethanol production from agricultural waste

Nov 20, 2009

With the introduction of a single bacterial gene into yeast, researchers from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands achieved three improvements in bioethanol production from agricultural waste material: 'More ethanol, less acetate and elimination of the major by-product glycerol' This week the invention was published in the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Bioethanol is made by the yeast from sugars obtained from plant biomass. This microorganism also converts such sugars into ethanol (alcohol) in beer and wine. The production of bioethanol is rapidly increasing due to the growing use of bioethanol as a car fuel. With an annual world production of 65 billion liters, bioethanol is aready the largest product of the fermentation industry

Bioethanol should of course preferably be produced from resources that do not compete with food production. For this reason, efforts are made to produce second-generation bioethanol, using agricultural residues such as wheat straw and corn stover. However, when the sugars from these raw materials are released, significant quantities of are formed. Acetate can slow down or even halt bioethanol production by yeast.

Another challenge of the current bioethanol production process is that about 4% of the sugar is lost to formation of the byproduct glycerol. Glycerol formation was long considered to be an inevitable consequence of the production conditions during bioethanol production.

TU Delft researchers have now solved these issues. Yeast can, at least in theory, also convert the harmful acetate to ethanol. As it turns out, just one single gene is missing in the yeast. By introducing a single gene from the bacterium Escherichia coli, researchers of the Netherlands-based Delft University of Technology and the Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial enabled this conversion of acetate to ethanol by yeast. This replaced the normal role of glycerol so efficiently that key genes in glycerol production could be removed, thus completely abolishing glycerol production.

The invention is enthusiastically summarized by the principal researcher Jack Pronk: 'In the laboratory, this simple genetic modification kills three birds with one stone: no formation, higher ethanol yields and consumption of toxic acetate'.

For the potential billion liter gain to be realized, follow-up research on the transfer of this concept to industrial yeast strains and real-life process conditions is required. The Delft researchers, who applied for a patent on their invention, hope to intensively collaborate with industrial partners to accelerate its industrial implementation.

Source: Delft University of Technology (news : web)

Explore further: For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Producing bio-ethanol from agricultural waste a step closer

Jun 07, 2006

Research conducted by Delft University of Technology has brought the efficient production of the environmentally-friendly fuel bio-ethanol a great deal closer to fruition. The work of Delft researcher Marko Kuyper was an ...

Magnets can boost production of ethanol for fuel

Sep 10, 2007

In a finding that could reduce the cost of ethanol fuel, researchers in Brazil report success in using low frequency magnetic waves to significantly boost the amount of ethanol produced through the fermentation of sugar. ...

Researchers Create First Synthetic Cellulosome in Yeast

Oct 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of researchers led by University of California, Riverside (UCR) Professor of Chemical Engineering Wilfred Chen has constructed for the first time a synthetic cellulosome in yeast, which is much more ...

Recommended for you

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

10 hours ago

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

Adventurous bacteria

12 hours ago

To reproduce or to conquer the world? Surprisingly, bacteria also face this problem. Theoretical biophysicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have now shown how these organisms should ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

14 hours ago

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...