Comparative Techno-Economic Analysis and Reviews of n-Butanol Production from Corn Grain and Corn Stover

Ling Tao, Xin He, Eric C.D. Tan, Min Zhang, Andy Aden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus Citations


This work presents a detailed review and comparative analysis of the process design and economics of n-butanol production using corn grain and corn stover. This includes reviewing the most recent n-butanol technologies; demonstrating the impact of key parameters (e.g. plant capacity, raw material pricing, yield) on the overall n-butanol process economics; and comparing how cellulosic biomass conversion technologies and challenges differ from traditional sugar-based n-butanol conversion technology. A major challenge of n-butanol production is the low n-butanol yield (compared to ethanol), resulting in higher production costs. However, recent research efforts have achieved significant yield improvements using a combination of genetic engineering, fermentation techniques, and integrated process development using continuous fermentation with online stripping to remove n-butanol during fermentation. This study presents the advances in n-butanol research for both sugar-based (corn) and cellulosic (corn stover) feedstocks, and also provides a comparison of overall process technologies and process economics. In addition, the results of a sensitivity analysis comparing various technologies, sugar yields, and coproduct distributions are discussed in order to provide research guidance.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)342-361
Number of pages20
JournalBiofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-55693


  • Biofuel
  • Continuous fermentation
  • Hybrid reaction separation
  • Integrated process
  • Lignocellulosic feedstocks
  • N-butanol
  • Techno-economic analysis


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