Continuous in-situ removal of butanol from clostridium acetobutylicum fermentations via expanded-bed adsorption
The use of petroleum for liquid-transportation fuels has strained the environment and caused the global crude oil reserves to diminish. Therefore, there exists a need to replace petroleum as the primary fuel derivative. Butanol is a four-carbon alcohol that can be used to effectively replace gasoline without changing the current automotive infrastructure. Additionally, butanol offers the same environmentally friendly effects as ethanol, but possess a 23% higher energy density. Clostridium acetobutylicum is an anaerobic bacterium that can ferment renewable biomass-derived sugars into butanol. However, this fermentation becomes limited by relatively low butanol concentrations (1.3% w/v), making this process uneconomical. To economically produce butanol, the in-situ product removal (ISPR) strategy is employed to the butanol fermentation. ISPR entails the removal of butanol as it is produced, effectively avoiding the toxicity limit and allowing for increased overall butanol production. This thesis explores the application of ISPR through integration of expanded-bed adsorption (EBA) with the C. acetobutylicum butanol fermentations. The goal is to enhance volumetric productivity and to develop a semi-continuous biofuel production process. The hydrophobic polymer resin adsorbent Dowex Optipore L-493 was characterized in cell-free studies to determine the impact of adsorbent mass and circulation rate on butanol loading capacity and removal rate. Additionally, the EBA column was optimized to use a superficial velocity of 9.5 cm/min and a resin fraction of 50 g/L. When EBA was applied to a fed-batch butanol fermentation performed under optimal operating conditions, a total of 25.5 g butanol was produced in 120 h, corresponding to an average yield on glucose of 18.6%. At this level, integration of EBA for in situ butanol recovered enabled the production of 33% more butanol than the control fermentation. These results are very promising for the production of butanol as a biofuel. Future work will entail the optimization of the fed-batch process for higher glucose utilization and development of a reliable butanol recovery system from the resin.