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Förslaget inkom 2007-03-12

Enzymatic pre-treatment of cellulose rich feedstock used for large-scale production of biogas used as bio-fuel

MicroDrivE – MSc Project School
Environmental and economic reasons motivate focused research on bio-fuel production. The new research programme MicroDrivE – Microbially Derived Energy, offers a series of MSc projects within bio-preservation, enzymatic pre-treatments, ethanol fermentation, bioprocessing of by-products, biogas production and fertility effects of bioresidues. The projects are supervised by scientists from the Departments of Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Chemistry at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala. MicroDrivE cooperates with a number of biotech and bioenergy companies. For information on the other MSc projects use the search function ”Fritext” to search for MicroDrive.

Biogas is a renewable energy source that can be used as fuel for vehicles, or for production of electricity or heat. Biogas is produced by microbial degradation of a large variety of different organic materials. Today, in Sweden, biogas is mainly produced from sewage sludge, slaughterhouse waste, manure and food and feed waste from municipals and from industries. However, the larger part of biogas production in future is believed to be based on agricultural sources, including also different types of energy crops. These more sustainable agricultural-based feedstocks do contain a much higher proportion of cellulose and hemicellulose, the main building blocks of plant cell walls, than the substrates for biogas production used today. There have already been indications on, from several biogas plants, that less biogas is produced from feedstock rich in cellulose. One possible way to overcome this problem and to increase the biogas yield from cellulose rich materials could be by performing an enzymatic pre-treatment

Cellulose and hemicellulose is built up of long glucan polymers, mainly consisting of glucose molecules, which are very densely packed together in small crystalline like formations. Cellulose is due to its crystallinity, chemically very stable and insoluble in water, and thus very hard to degrade. In spite of this, many microorganisms in nature, mainly fungi, can degrade cellulose and use its energy and carbon content for growth. The microorganisms produce mixtures of extra cellular enzymes called cellulases and hemicellulases. Such enzymatic mixtures synergistically and efficiently degrade cellulose and hemicellulose into shorter soluble glucans, like glucose and cellobiose. A wide range of cellulose and hemicellulose degrading enzymes are commercially produced and utilized in industrial applications to modify the chemical properties of different biological materials containing cellulose and hemicellulose.

This MSc work will investigate the effects of enzymatic pre-treatment of cellulose rich feedstock on the total biogas yield. Different types of commercially available cellulases and hemicellulases will be evaluated.

Methods that will be used during the project include:
• Enzymatic treatments
• Set-up and monitoring small scale biogas processes
• Analytical methods including gaschromatography.

We are looking for a student within the biochemistry, microbiology, and biotechnology area interested in future technologies for bio-fuel production and environmental concerns.

For information on the Department of Microbiology, SLU, visit Web site http://www.mikrob.slu.se, and on the Department of Molecular Biology, SLU, visit Web-site: http://xray.bmc.uu.se


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