Deconstruction

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GLBRC's Deconstruction Research Area

Deconstruction

GLBRC's Deconstruction Lead takes top academic slot

Located at the intersection of the U.S.’s agricultural heartland and its northern forests, the GLBRC has access to a rich diversity of raw biomass for study. The Center's Deconstruction research focuses on identifying the best combinations of enzymes, chemicals, and physical processing methods for enhancing the digestibility of specific biomass sources.

Learn about the Center's research approach

Deconstruction Leadership

Deconstruction Lead

Dale is an expert on making ethanol from cellulose, plant stalks, grass, corn cobs and other woody plant parts and has developed a patented process called ammonia fiber expansion (AFEXTM), which makes the breakdown of cellulose more efficient, thus tackling...

Deconstruction Lead

Fox's research goals are to define the structure and the reactivity of the active site diiron center, to probe the catalytic contributions of the active site protein residues and to determine the consequences of protein-protein and protein-substrate interactions on the...

Project Overview

A biofuels reactor designed to produce ethanol at Michigan State University's Biomass Conversion Research Lab (BCRL)GLBRC Deconstruction research maintains a focus on the entire biofuels production pipeline: in addition to identifying and improving natural cellulose-degrading enzymes extracted from diverse environments, researchers apply unique biomass pretreatment technologies—such as ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX™), alkaline hydrogen peroxide (AHP), and extractive ammonia (EA)—that enable conversion technologies to maximize plant biomass utilization.. Researchers also explore strategies to add value to these processes by developing co-products from materials that would otherwise be treated as waste, such as lignin. Specific deconstruction projects include:

  • Pretreatment effects on biomass, alkaline peroxide pretreatment, fuel production from alkaline-pretreated biomass
  • Optimization of enzymes for biomass conversion, discovery of natural cellulolytic microbes, identification of novel microbial enzymes, and combinatorial discovery of enzymes and proteins

Deconstruction Publications

A co-solvent hydrolysis strategy for the production of biofuels: process synthesis and technoeconomic analysis

Wangyun Won; Ali H. Motagamwala; James A. Dumesic; Christos T. Maravelias

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2017

We develop an integrated strategy for the production of ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass. Cellulose and hemicellulose fractions are first hydrolyzed into sugars using a mixture of γ-valerolactone (GVL), water, and toluene as a solvent containing dilute sulfuric acid as a catalyst, and the sugars are then co-fermented into ethanol over engineered yeast strains. Separation subsystems are designed to effectively recover GVL and toluene for reuse in biomass hydrolysis, and to recover lignin and humins for heat and power generation. We also develop an alternative process, in which we recover sugars and GVL from the residual biomass. To minimize utility requirements, we conduct heat integration, which allows us to meet all heating requirement using biomass residues. Finally, we perform a range of system-level analyses to identify the major cost and technological drivers. The proposed strategy is shown to be cost-competitive with other strategies.

A superstructure-based framework for bio-separation network synthesis

WenZhao Wu; Kirti Yenkie; Christos T. Maravelias

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2017

Modern biotechnologies enable the production of chemicals using engineered microorganisms. However, the cost of downstream recovery and purification steps is high, which means that the feasibility of bio-based chemicals production depends heavily on the synthesis of cost-effective separation networks. To this end, we develop a superstructure-based framework for bio-separation network synthesis. Based on general separation principles and insights obtained from industrial processes for specific products, we first identify four separation stages: cell treatment, product phase isolation, concentration and purification, and refinement. For each stage, we systematically implement a set of connectivity rules to develop stage-superstructures, all of which are then integrated to generate a general superstructure that accounts for all types of chemicals that can be produced using microorganisms. We further develop a superstructure reduction method to solve specific instances, based on product attributes, technology availability, case-specific considerations, and final product stream specifications. A general optimization model, including short-cut models for all technologies, is formulated. The proposed framework enables preliminary synthesis and analysis of bio-separation networks, and thus estimation of separation costs.

Design of biofuel supply chains with variable regional depot and biorefinery locations

Rex T.L. Ng; Christos T. Maravelias

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2017

We propose a multi-period mixed-integer linear programming (MILP) model for the design and operational planning of cellulosic biofuel supply chains. Specifically, the proposed MILP model accounts for biomass selection and allocation, technology selection and capacity planning at regional depots and biorefineries. Importantly, it considers the location of regional depots and biorefineries as continuous optimization decisions. We introduce approximation and reformulation methods for the calculation of the shipments and transportation distance in order to obtain a linear model. We illustrate the applicability of the proposed methods using two medium-scale examples with realistic data.

Determination of glycoside hydrolase specificities during hydrolysis of plant cell walls using glycome profiling

Johnnie A. Walker; Sivakumar Pattathil; Lai F. Bergeman; Emily T. Beebe; Kai Deng; Maryam Mirzai; Trent R. Northen; Michael G. Hahn; Brian G. Fox

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2017

Glycoside hydrolases (GHs) are enzymes that hydrolyze polysaccharides into simple sugars. To better understand the specificity of enzyme hydrolysis within the complex matrix of polysaccharides found in the plant cell wall, we studied the reactions of individual enzymes using glycome profiling, where a comprehensive collection of cell wall glycan-directed monoclonal antibodies are used to detect polysaccharide epitopes remaining in the walls after enzyme treatment and quantitative nanostructure initiator mass spectrometry (oxime-NIMS) to determine soluble sugar products of their reactions.

Mining the isotopic complexity of nitrous oxide: a review of challenges and opportunities

Nathaniel E. Ostrom; Peggy H. Ostrom

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2017

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important focus of international greenhouse gas accounting agreements and mitigation of emissions will likely depend on understanding the mechanisms of its formation and reduction. Consequently, applications of stable isotope techniques to understand N2O cycling are proliferating and recent advances in technology are enabling (1) increases in the frequency of isotope analyses and (2) analyses not previously possible. The two isotopes of N and 3 isotopes of O combine to form a total of 12 possible isotopic molecules of N2O. Consequently, this remarkably simple molecule contains a wealth of isotopic information in the form of bulk (δ15N, δ18O), position dependent (site preference), mass independent (Δ17O) and multiply-substituted or clumped isotope compositions. With recent developments in high-mass resolution double sector instruments all 12 isotopic molecules will likely be resolved in the near future. Advances in spectroscopic instruments hold the promise of substantial increases in sample throughput; however, spectroscopic analyses require corrections due to interferences from other gases and frequent and accurate calibration. Mass spectrometric approaches require mass overlap corrections that are not uniform between research groups and interlaboratory comparisons remain imprecise. The continued lack of attention to calibration by both funding agencies and investigators can only perpetuate disagreement between laboratories in reported isotope values for N2O that, in turn, will compromise global assessments of N2O sources and sinks based on isotope ratios. This review discusses the challenges and opportunities offered by the isotopic complexity of N2O.

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