KAIST and Korean Company cooperative research team has developed the technology that increases the productivity of bio-butanol to equal that of bio-ethanol and decreases the cost of production.
Professor Lee Sang Yeop (Department of Biological-Chemical Engineering) collaborated with GS Caltex and BioFuelChem Ltd. to develop a bio-butanol production process using the system metabolism engineering method that increased the productivity and decreased the production cost.
Bio-butanol is being widely regarded as the environmentally friendly next generation energy source that surpasses bio-ethanol.
The energy density of bio-butanol is 29.9MJ (mega Joule) per Liter, 48% larger than bio-ethanol (19.6MJ) and comparable to gasoline (32MJ). Bio-butanol is advantageous in that it can be processed from inedible biomass and is therefore unrelated to food crises.
Especially because bio-butanol shows similar characteristics especially in its octane rating, enthalpy of vaporization, and air-fuel ratio, it can be used in a gasoline engine.
However barriers such as difficulty in gene manipulation of producer bacterium and insufficient information prevented the mass production of bio-butanol.
Professor Lee’s team applied the system metabolism engineering method that he had invented to shift the focus to the production pathway of bio-butanol and made a new metabolism model.
In the new model the bio-butanol production pathway is divided into the hot channel and the cold channel.
The research team focused on improving the efficiency of the hot channel and succeeded in improving the product yield of 49% (compared to theoretical yield) to 87%.
The team furthered their research and developed a live bio-butanol collection and removal system with GS Caltex. The collaboration succeeded in producing 585g of butanol using 1.8kg of glucose at a rate of 1.3g per hour, boasting world’s highest concentration, productivity, and rate and improving productivity of fermentation by three fold and decreasing costs by 30%.
The result of the research was published in world renowned ‘mBio’ microbiology journal.