Direct Conversion of Delignified Biomass into Non-Volatile Products Using Thermophilic Bacteria

Research output: NRELPoster


Butyric acid (BA) can be used as a platform intermediate for diesel and sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) as well as a precursor for diverse commodity chemicals for the production of polymers, fibers, solvents, and preservatives. This work presents a co-culture-based bioprocess for the production of BA from corn stover by 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. First, we tested the capability of C. thermocellum to deconstruct three different biomass streams from the NREL pilot plant pretreatment process -raw, deacetylated, and deacetylated and mechanically refined corn stover (DMR)-, and up to 82% solids deconstruction and 91% carbohydrate utilization were obtained when using DMR solids. Then, the sugar utilization and by-product formation capabilities on various substrates by C. thermobutyricum were compared to evaluate its potential as a co-culture partner for C. thermocellum. Model carbon sources -glucose and xylose- were compared to a mixture of substrates present in soluble DMR hydrolysate streams, and the highest cell density as well as the maximum BA titer (8.3 g/L) were observed on DMR hydrolysate. Finally, clostridial co-cultivations on DMR solids were performed to investigate the inoculation time for both organisms that enhances BA production; while C. thermocellum was always inoculated at the beginning of the cultivation, C. thermobutyricum was inoculated at 0, 36, or 72h. It was found that BA production begins immediately upon inoculation of C. thermobutyricum regardless of the inoculation time. However, higher solids deconstruction and carbohydrate utilization results (83.7 and 95.6%, respectively) were obtained when both organisms were inoculated at the beginning of the fermentation. Under those conditions, up to 2.6 g/L of BA were obtained from DMR solids after 120h of cultivation. This work provides relevant information for the sustainable production of BA using thermophilic bacteria.
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-2700-86167


  • bacterial co-culture
  • butyric acid
  • clostridium thermobutyricum
  • clostridium thermocellum
  • consolidated bioprocessing
  • deacetylated corn stover
  • platform chemicals
  • thermophilic bacteria


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