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Global Bioenergies Creates a Bacterial Prototype With Artificial Metabolic Pathway that Produces Isobutene from Glucose

Global Bioenergies has engineered an initial series of bacterial strains that can produce isobutene—a key chemical building block that can be converted into transportation fuels, polymers and various commodity chemicals—by transforming glucose in vivo.(Earlier post.) Isobutene belongs to the family of light olefin hydrocarbons, and is presently obtained from petroleum.

We have achieved our goal to bioproduce isobutene in vivo ahead of target. We are now concentrating our efforts on increasing both the rate and scale of fermentation. We plan to carry out pilot plant tests prior to the industrial exploitation of the process. This phase will require new financial investment.

—Marc Delcourt, co-founder and CEO

Global Bioenergies’s pathway involves enzymes carrying out reactions unobserved in nature. The process—essentially a biological analog of the Fischer-Tropsch process, but one that does not require a high-temperature step—involves the production of a gas that spontaneously volatilizes during the reaction.

We have taught a bacterium to convert glucose to isobutene through an entirely novel process. The metabolic layout that we established passes by 3-hydroxyisovalerate (also called 3-hydroxy-3-methylbutyrate). This chemical intermediate, which is absent from natural bacteria is, in turn, enzymatically converted into isobutene in our strains. The process is set up in accordance with the patent application filed in July 2008.

—Philippe Marlière, co-founder and designer of the process

The process is designed to be used downstream from three sugar production pathways: sugar, starch and cellulose. The process can thus be used with cellulosic biomass, following pretreatment and hydrolysis.

This is the first time that an artificial metabolic pathway, which leads the production of a light olefin from renewable resources, has been designed and assembled in a micro-organism. These results set a precedent for the in-depth changes which the worldwide chemical industry will have to undergo in the 21st century.

—Jean-Marc Paris, professor at the Ecole Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie (Paris Tech) and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board

Global Bioenergies is also targeting the bioproduction of other molecules of the light olefin family, such as ethylene and propylene.



This beats ethanol fermentation. A product which bubbles out of the mix has no energy cost for distillation.

If I'm not mistaken, isobutene may be converted to iso-octane (2, 5 dimethyl hexane) by linking 2 molecules together.

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