Microorganisms Help to Produce Renewable Biomass

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Researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) developed a new biotechnological approach that uses renewable biomass as an alternative to the fossil raw material

Oil is an extensively used ingredient for production of fuels and basic chemicals that are used to manufacture products such as plastic bottles and detergent. Although oil is profitable, it adversely affects climate and environment. Moreover, the deposits of fossil raw material are depleting and the approaches used produce basic chemicals such as ethanol from renewable materials are expensive. Now, a team of researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) developed a new biotechnological processes that uses renewable biomass as an alternative to the fossil raw material. Moreover, the process is more cost-effective as compared to other methods that are used to generate fuels.

The team led by Professor Christoph Syldatk, Head of the Institute of Process Engineering in Life Sciences II / Technical Biology at KIT, is focused on using plant biomass such as wood and straw that are not used as food or feed. The researchers determined how raw materials that are not used as food or feed can be processed biotechnologically. Non-edible and bio-based raw materials consist to a large extent of lignocellulose. However, lignocellulose needs to be broken down into its components for proper use. The process is also time consuming and to reduce the time and production costs, researchers determined ways to produce new types of biosurfactants with the help of microbial or enzymatic synthesis.

The team focused on converting the woody biomass into basic components that allow to produce chemicals and materials such as bioplastics. Metabolism of bacteria, yeasts, and molds was used in the lab for such innovative product syntheses and chemical changes. According to the researcher, these products can be manufactured using a bio-based process and their molecules and properties are similar to those of petrochemical components. According to the researchers, synthesis gas offers identical starting conditions even if different types of biomass are used as a raw material. The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Chemistry on September 13, 2018.

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