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Issue 8, 2012
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Chain elongation with reactor microbiomes: upgrading dilute ethanol to medium-chain carboxylates

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Abstract

Ethanol distillation in the biofuel industry is energetically expensive because ethanol is completely miscible in water. Upgrading ethanol into a hydrophobic chemical that is easier to separate would circumvent current fossil-fuel consumption for distillation. Here, we shaped a reactor microbiome to sequentially elongate carboxylic acids with 2-carbon units from dilute ethanol in yeast-fermentation beer. Our continuous bioprocess produced n-caproic acid, a 6-carbon-chain carboxylic acid that is more valuable than ethanol. No antimicrobials to inhibit methanogens were necessary. In-line product extraction achieved an n-caproic acid production rate exceeding 2 grams per liter of reactor volume per day, which is comparable to established bioenergy systems with microbiomes. Incorporation of other organics found in beer increased the mass of carbon in n-caproic acid by 10% compared to ethanol.

Graphical abstract: Chain elongation with reactor microbiomes: upgrading dilute ethanol to medium-chain carboxylates

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Article information


Submitted
01 May 2012
Accepted
12 Jun 2012
First published
13 Jun 2012

Energy Environ. Sci., 2012,5, 8189-8192
Article type
Communication

Chain elongation with reactor microbiomes: upgrading dilute ethanol to medium-chain carboxylates

M. T. Agler, C. M. Spirito, J. G. Usack, J. J. Werner and L. T. Angenent, Energy Environ. Sci., 2012, 5, 8189
DOI: 10.1039/C2EE22101B

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