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USDA awards Microvi grant for biobutanol production technology

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Microvi Biotechnologies a grant to develop a new technology to improve significantly the yield and performance of biobutanol processes. The technology overcomes toxic and inhibitory effects on butanol producing microorganisms, a major bottleneck in scaling existing biobutanol processes.

Based on preliminary investigations, Microvi’s technology has shown substantial increases in the titer of butanol over its solubility limit. Microvi’s technology is also expected to provide economic advantages such as reduced water usage, waste production and energy use.

Biobutanol processes using Microvi’s technology would benefit from reduced capital and operating costs. The technology will be retrofitable in existing bioethanol processes and work with any microorganism including genetically modified organisms.

Microvi’s butanol technology is based on the company’s MicroNiche Engineering platform. Microvi says that MicroNiche Engineering is the science of synthetically designing the microenvironment of a biological system to optimize enzymatic processes. MicroNiche Engineering is a synthetic biology approach that achieves remarkably reproducible kinetics for almost any biocatalytic process, the company says.

A diversified energy future based on biobutanol and other low-cost biofuels requires new technologies for maximizing feedstock conversion efficiency and reducing operating costs. Through this effort, we open a new paradigm for managing toxic stresses for biobutanol production leading to economical production.

—Ameen Razavi, Director of Innovation Research

As a fuel or gasoline additive, biobutanol has many advantages over ethanol, including drop-in capability, higher energy content and better transport and handling properties. In addition, butanol can also be used as a building block for chemical manufacturing.

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