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University of Minnesota Researchers Find Way to Turn Lignocelluloslic Biomass to BDO

Published on 2016-02-09. Author : SpecialChem

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have engineered a new synthetic biopathway that can more efficiently and cost-effectively turn agricultural waste, like corn stover and orange peels, into a variety of useful products

Minnesota
Fig. 1: University of Minnesota

The groundbreaking study was published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

In this study, researchers looked at turning inedible biological byproducts, that scientists call lignocelluloslic biomass, to produce useful products to avoid the “food versus chemical” purposes. They specifically looked at the process to use lignocellulosic biomass to produce butanediol (BDO).

To establish the platform pathway, researchers examined the gene sequences from bacteria and fungi that turn the biomass into tricarboxylic acid (TCA) intermediates. The researchers call this new metabolism “nonphosphorylative metabolism,” which enables the production of useful products from TCA cycle with less than five steps, compared to previous 10 steps. Less steps in the process resulted in a 70 percent higher yield in production and a process that is overall better for the environment.

What excited researchers the most was that this pathway could be used for more than just producing BDO for spandex. It can be used to produce a variety of useful products.

“We found that this new platform could be used to convert agricultural waste to chemicals that can be used for many other” said the study’s lead researcher Kechun Zhang, a chemical engineering and materials science assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.

“The pathway we developed was sustainable so it is better for the environment. This study is also one of the few examples of artificial metabolic pathways constructed so far,” Zhang added.

Zhang is a researcher in the National Science Foundation’s Center for Sustainable Polymers based at the University of Minnesota. His research has been funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and the University of Minnesota.

Other University of Minnesota students and researchers involved in this study include Yi-Shu Tai, Mingyong Xiong, Pooja Jambunathan, Jingyu Wang, Jilong Wang, and Cole Stapleton.

About University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities (Minnesota; locally known as the U of M or simply the U) is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The university is organized into 19 colleges and schools, and it has sister campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester.

Source: University of Minnesota
 

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