Biological Synthesis of Fuels and Chemicals

Originally delivered Jul 22, 2010
  • Type:
    Archived Webinar
  • Level:
  • Duration:
    1 hour
  • PDHs:

Share This Post:

Global energy and climate problems have stimulated increased efforts in synthesizing fuels and chemicals from renewable resources. Compared to the traditional biofuel, ethanol, higher alcohols offer advantages as gasoline substitutes because of their higher energy density and lower hygroscopicity. However, these alcohols cannot be synthesized economically using native organisms. Here we present a metabolic engineering approach using various microorganisms to produce higher alcohols (C3-C8) from renewable carbon source. This strategy leverages the host’s highly active amino acid biosynthetic pathway and diverts its 2-keto acid intermediates for alcohol synthesis. In particular, we have achieved high yield, high specificity production of isobutanol from glucose. We further developed a non-natural chain-elongation pathway to produce abiotic longer chain keto acids and alcohols by engineering the chain elongation activity of 2-isopropylmalate synthase and altering the substrate specificity of downstream enzymes through rational protein design. When introduced into E. coli, this non-natural biosynthetic pathway produces various long-chain alcohols with carbon number ranging from 5 to 8. This strategy has also been implemented in photosynthetic cyanobacteria, Synechococcus elongates to produce isobutyraldehyde and isobutanol directly from CO2, bypassing the need for plant or algal biomass processing. In addition, other non-natural metabolites which can be used as pharmaceutical intermediates can be produced using this strategy.


James C. Liao

Dr. James C. Liao, Chancellor’s professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, UCLA, is a pioneer in Metabolic Engineering, Synthetic Biology, and Systems Biology. He received his BS degree from National Taiwan University and PhD from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After working as a research scientist at Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY, he started his academic career at Texas A&M University in 1990 and moved to UCLA in 1997. He was elected Fellow of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, 2002, and received numerous awards, including NSF Young Investigator...Read more

Once the content has been viewed and you have attested to it, you will be able to download and print a certificate for PDH credits. If you have already viewed this content, please click here to login.



Do you already own this?

Log In for instructions on accessing this content.


AIChE Member Credits 1
AIChE Members $69.00
AIChE Undergraduate Student Members Free
AIChE Graduate Student Members Free
SBE Members Free
Non-Members $99.00
Webinar content is available with the kind permission of the author(s) solely for the purpose of furthering AIChE’s mission to educate, inform and improve the practice of professional chemical engineering. All other uses are forbidden without the express consent of the author(s).