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 superstructure representation, generation, and modeling framework for chemical process synthesis

WenZhao Wu; Carlos A. Henao; Christos T. Maravelias

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2016

We present a framework for the efficient representation, generation, and modeling of superstructures for process synthesis. First, we develop a new representation based on three basic elements: units, ports, and conditioning streams. Second, we present four rules based on “minimal” and “feasible” component sets for the generation of simple superstructures containing all feasible embedded processes. Third, in terms of modeling, we develop a modular approach, and formulate models for each basic element. We also present a canonical form of element models using input/output variables and constrained/free variables. The proposed methods provide a coherent framework for superstructure-based process synthesis, allowing efficient model generation and modification. © 2016 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 62: 3199–3214, 2016

A superstructure-based framework for simultaneous process synthesis, heat integration, and utility plant design

Lingxun Kong; Murat Sen; Carlos A. Henao; James A. Dumesic; Christos T. Maravelias

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2016

We propose a superstructure optimization framework for process synthesis with simultaneous heat integration and utility plant design. Processing units in the chemical plant can be modeled using rigorous unit models or surrogate models generated from experimental results or off-line calculations. The utility plant subsystem includes multiple steam types with variable temperature and pressure. For the heat integration subsystem, we consider variable heat loads of process streams as well as variable intervals for the utilities. To enhance the solution of the resulting mixed-integer nonlinear programming models, we develop (1) new methods for the calculation of steam properties, (2) algorithms for variable bound calculation, and (3) systematic methods for the generation of redundant constraints. The applicability of our framework is illustrated through a biofuel case study which includes a novel non-enzymatic hydrolysis technology and new separation technologies, both of which are modeled based on experimental results.

An engineered solvent system for sugar production from lignocellulosic biomass using biomass derived γ-valerolactone

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

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2016

γ-Valerolactone (GVL) is a biomass-derived solvent which completely solubilizes all fractions of lignocellulosic biomass, leading to the recovery of polysaccharides (cellulose and hemicellulose) as soluble carbohydrates at high yields (>70%) without the use of expensive reagents, like enzymes and ionic liquids. Biological upgrading of carbohydrates to biofuels or bio-based chemicals requires that the carbohydrates are separated from GVL. We demonstrate that an engineered solvent system consisting of GVL, water and an organic co-solvent is mono-phasic at the temperatures used for biomass fractionation (e.g., 160 °C) and is bi-phasic at lower temperatures (e.g., room temperature). The advantage of using this engineered solvent system is that the carbohydrates are spontaneously separated from organic solvent components into an aqueous hydrolysate stream, thereby avoiding the need for expensive and potentially hazardous separation processes, such as operation at elevated pressures required for separation using liquid CO2. We also show that the organic co-solvent can be selected from an array of organic components, leading to a trade-off between the efficacy of carbohydrate separation and the ‘greenness’ of the solvent. We show further that toluene is a promising co-solvent component, and techno-economic analyses of the process, wherein toluene is used as a co-solvent, lead to a minimum selling price of ethanol of $3.10 per gallon of gasoline equivalent.

Cellulose-enriched microbial communities from leaf-cutter ant (Atta colombica) refuse dumps vary in taxonomic composition and degradation ability

Gina R. Lewin; Amanda L. Johnson; Rolando D. Soto; Kailene Perry; Adam J. Book; Heidi A. Horn; Adrian A. Pinto-Tomas; Cameron R. Currie

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2016

Deconstruction of the cellulose in plant cell walls is critical for carbon flow through ecosystems and for the production of sustainable cellulosic biofuels. Our understanding of cellulose deconstruction is largely limited to the study of microbes in isolation, but in nature, this process is driven by microbes within complex communities. In Neotropical forests, microbes in leaf-cutter ant refuse dumps are important for carbon turnover. These dumps consist of decaying plant material and a diverse bacterial community, as shown here by electron microscopy. To study the portion of the community capable of cellulose degradation, we performed enrichments on cellulose using material from five Atta colombica refuse dumps. The ability of enriched communities to degrade cellulose varied significantly across refuse dumps. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of enriched samples identified that the community structure correlated with refuse dump and with degradation ability. Overall, samples were dominated by Bacteroidetes, Gammaproteobacteria, and Betaproteobacteria. Half of abundant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) across samples were classified within genera containing known cellulose degraders, including Acidovorax, the most abundant OTU detected across samples, which was positively correlated with cellulolytic ability. A representative Acidovorax strain was isolated, but did not grow on cellulose alone. Phenotypic and compositional analyses of enrichment cultures, such as those presented here, help link community composition with cellulolytic ability and provide insight into the complexity of community-based cellulose degradation.

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