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December 8, 2017
NREL Researchers Optimize Microbial Pathway To Biobased Fuels And Chemicals

On November 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) resulted in the successful modification of a microorganism to produce a versatile fermentation intermediate that can be upgraded into valuable biobased fuels and chemicals.  NREL’s cellulosic ethanol fermentation organism (Zymomonas mobilis), is capable of exclusively producing 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO), which can be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuel precursors and valuable chemical co-products.  Techno-economic modeling was performed to study the potential of producing hydrocarbon fuel precursors and co-products in a cost effective manner.  The first breakthrough occurred with genetic modifications to eliminate the ethanol pathways to ensure that sugar metabolism pathways also produced 2,3-BDO.  ORNL continues to explore modifications to its catalytic upgrading system to achieve further process simplifications and cost savings.


 
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