APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Biofuel production
- Enables ionic liquid pretreatment and saccharification with a washing step
- Tolerates broad range of pH levels
Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have enabled the combination of pretreatment and saccharification steps for processing lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels via multifunctional enzymes that are compatible with ionic liquids (IL). The enzymes can be used alone or in enzyme cocktails and work under a range of conditions, including high temperatures.
The JBEI team characterized enzymes of a thermophilic, biomass-degrading bacterial community. The enzymes are thermo-/IL-tolerant, withstanding IL concentrations of between 5% and 40%. Many of these enzymes function over a broad pH range, and all function well at or near neutral pH; thus, they don’t require buffering or pH adjustments to function. Current fungal-cellulase cocktails require buffering to pH 5.0 to function efficiently.
Processing biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass requires extensive pretreatment followed by the use of saccharolytic enzymes to release fermentable sugars locked inside the plant cell wall polymers. Current methods use commercial, fungally-derived enzyme cocktails that are inactive in the presence of ILs, making immediate enzyme hydrolysis impractical. The biomass must first be washed of ILs prior to the addition of the enzymes, an expensive and inefficient process. The new JBEI technology eliminates costly, extra steps, moving lignocellulosic biofuel production closer to commercial success.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
STATUS: Issued US Patent #9,803,182. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
REFERENCE NUMBER: EJIB-3264