OECD reports prepared by his team include: An Uphill Battle; Dare to Share: Willem graduated from the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, and holds a doctorate from St. Edmund Hall, University of Oxford.
Sandia National Laboratories scientists Seema Singh, left; and Fang Liu hold vials of vanillin and fermentation broth, which are critical for turning plant matter into biofuels and other valuable chemicals. Photo by Dino Vournas What does jet fuel have in common with pantyhose and plastic soda bottles?
Sandia National Laboratories scientists have demonstrated a new technology based on bioengineered bacteria that could make it economically feasible to produce all three from renewable plant sources.
Economically and efficiently converting tough plant matter, called lignin, has long been a stumbling block for wider use of the energy source and making it cost competitive. Piecing together mechanisms from other known lignin degraders, Sandia bioengineer Seema Singh and two postdoctoral researchers, Weihua Wu, now at Lodo Therapeutics Corp.
Engineering a costly process into profitability Lignin is the component of plant cell walls that gives them their incredible strength. Once broken down, lignin has other gifts to give in the form of valuable platform chemicals that can be converted into nylon, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other valuable products.
Future research may focus on demonstrating the production to these products, as they could help bring biofuel and bioproduction economics into balance. Or as Singh puts it, "they valorize lignin.
The first was cost. Scientists must coax the bacteria into making the enzymes by adding something called an inducer to the fermentation broth.
While effective, for activating enzyme production, inducers can be so costly that they are prohibitive for biorefineries. The solution was to "circumvent the need for an expensive inducer by engineering the E.
Vanillin is not an obvious choice to replace an inducer. The compound is produced as lignin breaks down and can, at higher concentrations, inhibit the very E.
This posed the second problem: Once the vanillin in the fermentation broth activates the enzymes, the E. While the vanillin in the fermentation broth moves across the membranes of the cells to be converted by the enzymes, it was a slow, passive movement. The researchers looked for effective transporters from other bacteria and microbes to fast track this process, Wu said.
The external inducer-free, auto-regulating method for valorizing lignin is just one way that researchers are working to optimize the biofuel-making process.This is what a successful digital transformation looks like, based on research into the characteristics of enterprises that have succeeded with transformations in real life.
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