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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592
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Institute for Microbial and Biochemical Techology

Project Title :  Bioconversion of wood sugars to fuels and other chemicals
Project Number : FPL-4712-1B
Status : NEW
Start Date : 10-01-2012
End Date : 09-30-2019


View the 15 publications associated with this project.

M.E. Casey CrooksPrincipal Investigator:
M.E. Casey Crooks

Non Technical Summary
This research develops technologies for efficient, economical bioconversion of forest thinnings, unmerchantable timber and mixed species to produce renewable fuels, chemicals, fibers and polymers.


Objectives Summary
The main objective of this research is to understand, modify, and adapt xylose- and cellobiose-fermenting yeasts for the production of fuels and chemicals from wood hydrolysates and pretreated cellulosic solids. This work is important because xylose and cellobiose fermentations are essential for the economic bioconversion of lignocellulose. The research will identify rate-limiting steps in the xylose fermentation pathway, provide tools for genetic engineering of fermentative yeasts, and reveal unknown metabolic mechanisms. Other objectives are to (1) develop novel biocatalysts for the synthesis of higher value products such as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), succinic acid, isobutanol, lipids and isoprenoids, that will improve the overall economic feasibility for bioconversion, (2) identify and develop genes and microbes for saccharification and fermentation of lignocellulosic materials at elevated temperatures, and (3) to develop fundamental knowledge and tools that will enable monitoring, modeling and manipulation of gene expression for metabolic engineering in eukaryotic organisms.


Approach Summary
22. MethodsBiotechnology can increase the efficiency and economics of bioconversion in at least three ways: (1) through the discovery and development of novel biocatalysts for lignocellulose hydrolysis and degradation, (2) by increasing the efficiency of metabolic pathways leading to ethanol, and (3) by introducing or manipulating metabolic pathways for the biosynthesis of higher-value products. Research conducted under problems 2-4 will focus in part on cellulases, hemicellulases and lignin degrading enzymes bearing on the first aspect. Research conducted under this problem will focus mainly on the other two aspects. We will increase the efficiency of bioconversion to ethanol by engineering the metabolic pathways for sugar utilization and fermentation. Pathways resulting in product yield loss, such as respiration, will be blocked through specific disruption and over-expressing genes for rate-limiting steps will enhance pathways leading to increased product formation. Traits introduced into individual strains will be crossed with others to obtain improved recombinants. Appropriate yeast strains will be transformed with these genetic constructions, and the resulting transformants will be studied for their fermentative capacities. We will explore the potential for gasification and bioconversion by examining the metabolic capabilities of anaerobic bacteria that grow on synthesis gas to produce ethanol, butanol and organic acids. General methods and expected outcomes include: 1. Obtain a yeast strain suitable for the conversion of hemicellulose hydrolysate to ethanol.2. Identify and characterize genetic elements and trans-acting factors involved in the regulation of fermentative and respirative enzymes in pentose-fermenting yeasts.3. Identify and develop genes or a yeast host that will enable the production of ethanol at elevated temperatures to facilitate saccharification and fermentation processes. 4. Develop genetic tools that will enable the coordinated expression of multiple genes for complete pathways in a model yeast system.5. Evaluate the potential for the gasification/bioconversion route for producing fuels and chemicals.6. Develop inhibitor tolerant bacterial strains for the conversion of hemicellulose hydrolysate to biopolymers.7. Communicate the findings in high-quality scientific papers in refereed journals, in lectures before a variety of audiences, and, where appropriate for technology transfer, patents.

Publications associated with this Project

Publication YearTitleDate Posted
20143D FT-IR imaging spectroscopy of phase-separation in a poly(3-hydroxybutyrate)/poly(L-lactic acid) blend07/20/15
2016A 1,3-1,4-β-glucan utilization regulon in Paenibacillus sp. strain JDR-209/30/16
2013Chapter 6: Prehydrolysis Pulping with Fermentation Coproducts09/30/13
2013Chemically imaging the effects of the addition of nanofibrillated cellulose on the distribution of poly(acrylic acid) in poly(vinyl alcohol)04/02/13
2015Chemistry of wood in 3D: new infrared imaging12/15/15
2013Differential sensitivity of polyhydroxyalkanoate producing bacteria to fermentation inhibitors and comparison of polyhydroxybutyrate production from Burkholderia cepacia and Pseudomonas pseudoflava08/02/13
2012Diffraction-limited IR Microspectroscopy with IRENI12/04/14
2014Engineering the Xylan Utilization System in Bacillus subtilis for Production of Acidic Xylooligosaccharides09/22/14
2013Enzymatic hydrolysis, simultaneous saccharification and ethanol fermentation of oxalic acid pretreated giant reed (Arundo donax L.)09/16/14
2014Ethanol production from non-detoxified whole slurry of sulfite-pretreated empty fruit bunches at a low cellulase loading07/18/14
2016Genomic and transcriptomic analysis of carbohydrate utilization by Paenibacillus sp. JDR-2: systems for bioprocessing plant polysaccharides09/30/16
2013Nondestructive chemical imaging of wood at the micro-scale: advanced technology to complement macro-scale evaluations10/24/13
2014Patterning of oxide-hardened gold black by photolithography and metal lift-off04/30/15
2013Phenotypic selection of a wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain for simultaneous saccharification and co-fermentation of AFEX pretreated corn stover09/13/13
2014Transcriptomic Analysis of Xylan Utilization Systems in Paenibacillus sp07/20/15

Project Summaries last modified: 08-22-2018