During the American Chemical Society meeting in Anaheim, California, Agrivida announced that they have developed a technology that provides the biomass with the ability to convert its starch to sugar more effectively without using a traditional enzyme to aid the process. The company uses a proprietary feedstock, low temperature and low cost processing platform to convert nearly 80 percent of the glucose from cellulosic biomass while using a less harsh pretreatment method. This process creates hydrolysate, a mixture of amino acids, which can be fermented by yeast resulting in a higher level of glucose. This leads to increased biofuels production.
The company has created a proprietary intein, or segment of protein, that contains modified enzyme-based traits. These inteins accelerate cell wall degradation following harvest. (In order to break down the lignin found in biomass and convert it to glucose you must break down the cell wall. This has been one of the major challenges in cellulosic ethanol production.) Agrivida’s engineered feedstocks include corn cobs and stover, sugarcane bagasse, sorghum, and swithgrass.
“These achievements represent major milestones for Agrivida’s technology development, and for the overall industry,” said Michael Raab, Ph.D. and president of Agrivida. “Based on this data, we are plotting a course whereby cellulosic biofuels and chemicals can economically compete with those produced by starch or sucrose. This is a significant step towards providing the lowest-cost cellulosic sugars, one that will also afford commercial scale processing of cellulosic feedstocks.”
Prior to this announcement, the company demonstrated that its engineered feedstocks could provide higher hydrolysis rates and yields compared to non-engineered biomass crops. Although the rates found in their experiments provided cost reductions compared to conventional biomass, they discovered that the glucose yield was still relatively low when compared to using a conventional dilute acid. This announcement signals the breakthrough with regards to glucose yield.
The abstract describing the Agrivida data, “Engineering Crop Processing Traits for the Production of Cellulosic Biofuels and Chemicals,” can be viewed here.