Butyric acid (BA) is a valuable platform chemical in the food and pharmaceutical industries, and it is also a potential precursor for the production of biobutanol and sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). BA is mainly synthesized from petroleum; thus, cost-effective, and sustainable alternatives for its production are attracting the interest of several sectors. The present work proposes a solids-to-acids bioprocess to produce BA from corn stover utilizing a co-culture that consists of two thermophilic bacteria, Clostridium thermocellum, a well-known efficient degrader of insoluble and oligomeric cellulosic substrates, and Clostridium thermobutyricum, a highly efficient BA producer from monomeric sugars. After initial proof of concept experiments, a series of optimization studies were carried out to evaluate the process limits of this co-culture. First, the co-cultivation of both microorganisms at different inoculum sizes in deacetylated and mechanically refined corn stover (DMR) was evaluated. No significant differences were found on the solids deconstruction and carbohydrates utilization among all the treatments. In addition, BA production was similar under all conditions, ranging between 2.1 and 2.4 g/L. Next, the deconstruction, and BA production capabilities of the co-culture at increased DMR solids contents (3, 4.5, and 6% (w/v)) were tested. Although no difference was observed in the solids deconstruction and carbohydrates utilization among treatments, BA production increased concomitantly to solids loading; the maximum values observed were 2.8, 3.6, and 6.2 g/L in the 3, 4.5, and 6% treatments, respectively. In fact, BA production did not reach its absolute maximum in the 6% treatment after 160 h of fermentation. Lastly, a fed-batch experiment was performed to investigate the co-culture capabilities and possible system constraints to achieve higher BA titers. Data on substrate modifications and product formation as well as on the growth of each microorganism will be shown. Results from this work demonstrate a promising bioprocess approach for the production of BA from lignocellulosic biomass using a thermophilic bacterial co-culture.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 45th Symposium on Biomaterials, Fuels and Chemicals (SBFC), 30 April - 3 May 2023, Portland, Oregon

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-2800-86166


  • bacteria
  • butyric acid
  • clostridium
  • co-cultures
  • deacetylated corn stover
  • thermophilic bacteria


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