Biomimicry of the Fungal Consolidation of Biomass Pretreatment with Saccharification

Sustainable Engineering Forum
2011 AIChE Annual Meeting
AIChE Annual Meeting
October 18, 2011 - 8:00pm

Efficient breakdown of ligno-cellulosic material prior to fermentation for bio-fuel production is a key step in optimizing bio-fuel production. Current industrial practice involves chemical pretreatment and acid or enzymatic saccharification to prepare ligno-cellulosic biomass for fermentation. The commercial viability of bio-fuels hinges in large part on production cost. One approach to reducing production cost is process consolidation. Consolidation not only eliminates the capital costs associated with the additional processing steps, but can also trim operational costs by reducing total reaction time and down time between steps.

In nature, the brown-rot fungus Postia placenta successfully performs both chemical pretreatment and enzymatic saccharification of biomass in a consolidated manner. As evidenced by its recently sequenced genome, P. placenta produces a limited suite of cellulases, lacking genes for exoglucanases. Despite this limitation, it is still capable of rapidly degrading wood. Brown-rot fungi quickly reduce the degree of polymerization of wood with little weight loss through a reduction-oxidation pathway that yields highly reactive hydroxyl radicals through a chelator-mediated fenton reaction. While hydroxyl radicals would readily damage its cellulases, the fungus manages to conduct both reaction types, enzymatic and oxidative, in the same general location. Examination of the spatial and temporal relationship of these two reaction systems as brown-rot fungal degradation of wood progresses will be presented.

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