Nii A. Patterson.
Life Sciences, Aquatic and Crop Resource Development, National Research Council Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
A major step for the development of a sustainable supply of bio-based products will be a shift from our dependence on petroleum to the use of renewable feedstock. The market share of biotechnological processes for the production of various bio-products is expected to rise from the current levels. Renewable fuels and chemicals thus represent major opportunity to commercialize industrial biotechnology in existing markets and at lower capital costs. Apart from energy uses, 6-10% of fossil fuels recovered are directed to the petroleum industry leading to a wide range of products essential to our way of life. Therefore, alternative sources of molecules for these applications are urgently required and biomass-derived material is the only feasible renewable source.
Lignocellulose the main component of plant biomass, is the most abundant form of renewable carbon making it an ideal feedstock for production of fuels and chemicals. The cellulose and hemicellulose components can be degraded into fermentable sugars to serve as building blocks for manufacture of a wide variety of biofuels and renewable chemicals that are currently produced from expensive and price-volatile petroleum feedstocks.
Microbial conversion of renewable feedstock into commodity and specialty chemicals provides a unique alternative to a petroleum-based economy. In 2004, the US DOE listed 30 potential monomers with up to six carbon atoms that could be fermented from the sugars in biomass and serve as the building-block chemicals, as intermediates, novel products or direct replacements for petroleum products.
Metabolic engineering, one of the flagship applications for synthetic biology aimed for enhanced production of desired bio-products through modification of cellular metabolism, has enabled microbial cell factories to produce biochemical from fermentable sugars. Thus, when properly optimized synthetic biology may, lead to cheap and effective processes for conversion of biomass to useful products.
Werpy T., Peterson G., Aden A., Bozell J., Holladay J., and Marheim A. (2004). Top Value-Added Chemicals from Biomass. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Office of the Biomass Preogram, USDOE.