Propionic Acid Production from Corn Stover Hydrolysate by Propionibacterium acidipropionici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus Citations


Background: The production of value-added chemicals alongside biofuels from lignocellulosic hydrolysates is critical for developing economically viable biorefineries. Here, the production of propionic acid (PA), a potential building block for C3-based chemicals, from corn stover hydrolysate is investigated using the native PA-producing bacterium Propionibacterium acidipropionici. Results: A wide range of culture conditions and process parameters were examined and experimentally optimized to maximize titer, rate, and yield of PA. The effect of gas sparging during fermentation was first examined, and N2 was found to exhibit improved performance over CO2. Subsequently, the effects of different hydrolysate concentrations, nitrogen sources, and neutralization agents were investigated. One of the best combinations found during batch experiments used yeast extract (YE) as the primary nitrogen source and NH4OH for pH control. This combination enabled PA titers of 30.8 g/L with a productivity of 0.40 g/L h from 76.8 g/L biomass sugars, while successfully minimizing lactic acid production. Due to the economic significance of downstream separations, increasing titers using fed-batch fermentation was examined by changing both feeding media and strategy. Continuous feeding of hydrolysate was found to be superior to pulsed feeding and combined with high YE concentrations increased PA titers to 62.7 g/L and improved the simultaneous utilization of different biomass sugars. Additionally, applying high YE supplementation maintains the lactic acid concentration below 4 g/L for the duration of the fermentation. Finally, with the aim of increasing productivity, high cell density fed-batch fermentations were conducted. PA titers increased to 64.7 g/L with a productivity of 2.35 g/L h for the batch stage and 0.77 g/L h for the overall process. Conclusion: These results highlight the importance of media and fermentation strategy to improve PA production. Overall, this work demonstrates the feasibility of producing PA from corn stover hydrolysate.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number200
Number of pages13
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-70061


  • Biochemicals
  • Biorefinery
  • Fermentation
  • Lignocellulosic biomass
  • Organic acids


Dive into the research topics of 'Propionic Acid Production from Corn Stover Hydrolysate by Propionibacterium acidipropionici'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this