Despite the rapid development of microorganisms producing “drop-in” biofuels and hydrocarbon chemicals via biochemical conversion, bioproduct purification remains costly and complex. Traditional separation techniques (centrifugation, multi-phase extractions, distillation) are capital-intensive and/or low-yielding. Argonne has developed high surface-area, flexible, nanostructured xerogels with excellent capabilities in biofuel recovery from biofermenters. Xerogels adsorb 8x their mass and with 100% selectivity for hydrocarbons without impacting cell viability and output. Adsorbed products are released by simple compression. We generated a separation platform by tuning the composition to capture and recover a target molecule. Xerogels are also high-affinity adsorbents with near-molecular recognition for removal from feedstock and fermentation streams of inhibitors limiting bioconversion processes. Compared to existing technologies, this approach is at least 250% cheaper and allows adsorbent reuse tens of times. In-situ adsorbents for product recovery offers other advantages: (1) reduced bulk viscosity as bioproduct is continuously captured, improving liquid mixing and oxygen transfer throughout the medium, (2) continuous product removal enabling true continuous fermentation (vs. fed-batch), and (3) improved bioproduct purity by eliminating the need for additional raw material inputs (solvents, acid, bases, flocculants) required for de-emulsification. These translate into commercial relevance such as reduced costs, higher productivity and improved product quality.
Primary Application Area: Materials, Chemical
Technology Development Status: Prototype
Technology Readiness Level: TRL 3
Organization Type: Academic/Gov Lab
Showcase Booth #: 16
GOVT/EXTERNAL FUNDING SOURCES