Cellulosic Biofuels


  1. Tolonen, A. Zuroff, T., Mohandass, R. Boutard, M., Cerisy, T., Curtis, W. Physiology, genomic, and pathway engineering of an ethanol-tolerant strain of Clostridium phytofermentans. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. PREPRINT, accepted May 27, 2015. 
  2. Zuroff TR, Weimin Gu W, Fore RL, Leschine SB, Curtis WR (2014Insights into Clostridium phytofermentans biofilm formation: aggregation, micro-colony development and the role of extracellular DNA, Microbiology, 160(6): 1134-1143. 
  3. Curtis WR, Curtis MS (2014Biomass-2-Energy, Chapter 3, In: Systems Engineering for Clean and Renewable Energy Manufacturing in Europe and Asia, NSF sponsored REport, WTEC.  (Full Report on Web; http://wtec.org/SEEM/) 
  4. Zuroff TR, Xiques SB, Curtis WR (2013Consortia-mediated bioprocessing of cellulose to ethanol with a symbiotic Clostridium phytofermentans/yeast co-culture, Biotechnology for Biofuels, 6:59  doi:10.1186/1754-6834-6-59
  5. Zuroff, Trevor, Curtis, WR. (2012)  Developing symbiotic consortia for lignocellulosic biofuel production.  Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. 2012 Feb ;93(4):1423-35. Epub 2012 Jan 26  Doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3762-9


Cellulosic Biofuels Snapshot Fa2014

The need for a sustainable, renewable source of transportation fuels has been recognized for a long time; however, the availability of inexpensive oil has largely obscured the urgency for its development. Recent political and economic events have highlighted the fragility of our dependence on foreign oil and reinvigorated a longer-term perspective on the need to provide a sustainable source of domestically-produced transportation fuel. Many fuel production alternatives are being proposed, ranging from purely thermochemical, to hybrid and to entirely biological production. As potential concedes to process performance, economics will sort out the best production options.

Figure 1. A small piece of paper with the word "Biofuel" written on it in a Clostridium phytofermentans culture 
degrading over time. One of the main products of C. phytofermentans cellulose hydrolysis and fermentation is ethanol.

The Curtis Lab research in converting plant biomass to biofuels has the goal of a simplified process that can be scaled down to an 'on farm' fuel production sustem to minimize costs associated with biomass transport. Key elements are using multiple organisms to achieve a 'division of labor' for breaking down the biomass and subsequent conversion to fuel. We have demonstrated that oxygen transport rats can be used to control the populations of the two organisms. Ongoing work involves translating success of ethanol fermentation to an alternative hydrocarbon-producting consortium.

We are also interested in utilizing low-cost bioreactor design and operational principles. In particular, we had developed a plastic-lined bioreactor to facilitate a low capital investment process paradigm.

Tangential efforts have included a comparison of 'white-rot' fungi to accomplish pre-treatment of biomass by consuming lignin to make the cellulose more accessible. The biofilm behavior of the cellulytic microorganism, C. phytofermentans has also been studied. An ethanol-tolerant strain of C. phytofermentans has also been metabolically-engineered for improved ethanol production.

ResearchersTrevor ZuroffSalvador Barri XiquesRachel ForeRamya MuhandassTaylor Maher, Patrick Hillery, Alex Rajangam.

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