Production of second generation biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass
Renewable energy sources such as second-generation biofuels stand in the limelight due to their high potential to evolve as an alternative to fossil fuels and alleviate environmental issues caused mainly by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, without competing with food and feed industry. Lignocellulosic biomass, such as agricultural or forestry residues, is an abundant and low-cost feedstock that plays a key role not only for bioethanol production but also for the production of other value-added bio-based products under the biorefinery concept. However, lignocellulosic ethanol production faces many obstacles due to the complexity and recalcitrance of lignocellulosic biomass and requires a two-step process in order to overcome these barriers. Pretreatment is the first step in the process of ethanol production from lignocellulose, aiming in the disruption of the complex polysaccharide network of the plant cell wall rendering cellulose vulnerable to enzymatic bioconversion. The second step is the conversion of carbohydrates present in lignocellulosic biomass, in the form of cellulose and hemicellulose, to monomeric fermentable sugars with the use of lignocellulolytic enzymes. Our goal is the development of enzymatic saccharification processes using novel biocatalysts and the subsequent process optimization. In order to achieve this goal, heterologous expression of lignocellulolytic enzymes into yeast strains is performed with the aim to generate more efficient enzyme cocktails. Furthermore, custom made liquefaction bioreactors are employed in order to deal with high solids content related issues. High gravity saccharification and fermentation stand to be a challenging but yet crucial strategy for a cost-competing bioethanol production process.
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