Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

One-Step Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Fumaric and Lactic Acids by Synthetic Fungal Consortia

Technology #7704

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Researchers
Nina (Xiaoxia) Lin
Managed By
Jeremy Nelson
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending
US Patent Pending

Lactic acid has myriad applications, including within the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries, and is used to produce the biodegradable polymer PLA that is widely used as an environmentally friendly packaging material. Fumaric acid is used as a food and beverage additive as well as in the production of body panels for the automotive industry.

The global market for lactic acid is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 10.6% through at least 2020 and to reach almost $4 billion by that point. This driven in large part by the dynamic growth anticipated for the polylactic acid (PLA) market through the same period, CAGR of 20.9% to exceed $5 billion in 2020. For both markets, production of renewably sourced lactic acid in a more efficient and cost-effective manner is highly desired. Although a smaller market, the same is true of fumaric acid production.

One-step conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to lactic and fumaric acids using a unique microbial co-culture

This technology utilizes a co-culture of two different but compatible microorganisms for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into either lactic or fumaric acid, depending on the co-culture used. The production of both products is performed using ‚Äúconsolidated bioprocessing‚ÄĚ (CBP), which combines all steps in the process (cellulase production, cellulose hydrolysis, and fermentation) into one reactor without the need for addition of other enzymes. Whereas past CBP approaches have utilized an engineered monoculture, this technology utilizes a specially designed and engineered co-culture to perform all steps in the reaction. The result is a bioreactor with all of the benefits of CBP (dramatic reduction of processing costs, better yields, fewer steps) without the challenge of combining all of the reaction steps into a single strain of microorganism.

Applications

  • conversion of biomass to lactic acid
  • conversion of biomass to fumaric acid

Advantages

  • fast
  • significantly reduced processing costs
  • no additional enzymes required
  • environmentally friendly