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An Integrated Biorefinery Concept for Conversion of Sugar Beet Pulp into Value-added Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Intermediates


Over 8 million tonnes of sugar beet are grown annually in the UK. Sugar beet pulp (SBP) is the main by-product of sugar beet processing which is currently dried and sold as a low value animal feed. SBP is a rich source of carbohydrates, mainly in the form of cellulose and pectin, including D-glucose (Glu), L-arabinose (Ara) and D-galacturonic acid (GalAc). This work describes the technical feasibility of an integrated biorefinery concept for fractionation of SBP and conversion of each of these monosaccharides into value-added products. SBP fractionation is initially carried out by steam explosion under mild conditions to yield soluble pectin and insoluble cellulose fractions. The cellulose is readily hydrolysed by cellulases to release Glu that can then be fermented by a commercial Yeast strain to produce bioethanol with a high yield. The pectin fraction can be either fully hydrolysed, using physico-chemical methods, or selectively hydrolysed, using cloned arabinases and galacturonases, to yield Ara-rich and GalAc-rich streams. These monomers can be separated using either Centrifugal Partition Chromatography (CPC) or ultrafiltration into streams suitable for subsequent enzymatic upgrading. Building on our previous experience with transketolase (TK) and transaminase (TAm) enzymes, the conversion of Ara and GalAc into higher value products is explored. In particular the conversion of Ara into L-gluco-heptulose (GluHep), that has potential therapeutic applications in hypoglycaemia and cancer, using a mutant TK is described. Preliminary studies with TAm also suggest GluHep can be selectively aminated to the corresponding chiral aminopolyol. Current work is addressing upgrading of the remaining SBP monomer, GalAc, and modelling of the biorefinery concept to enable economic and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).

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Publication details

The article was received on 07 Mar 2017, accepted on 30 Mar 2017 and first published on 26 Apr 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7FD00094D
Citation: Faraday Discuss., 2017, Accepted Manuscript
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    An Integrated Biorefinery Concept for Conversion of Sugar Beet Pulp into Value-added Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Intermediates

    M. Cardenas-Fernandez, M. Bawn, C. Bennett, B. Penumathsa, F. Subrizi, N. Suhaili, D. Ward, S. Bourdin, P. A. Dalby, H. Hailes, P. Hewitson, S. Ignatova, C. Kontoravdi, D. J. Leak, N. Shah, T. Sheppard, J. M. Ward and G. J. Lye, Faraday Discuss., 2017, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C7FD00094D

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