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A non-crop-based sugar feedstock for bio-based chemicals and biofuels

By Scott Jemkins |

Proterro Inc. (Princeton, N.J.; www. proterro.com) has demonstrated technology for directly producing sucrose as a feedstock for bio-based chemicals and biofuels that avoids the need for cellulosic biomass and energy crops. Using a genetically engineered strain of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and a unique photobioreactor system, Proterro is able to generate a clean, fermentation-ready sugar at a cost competitive with sugarcane, corn or other energy crops. The freshwater cyanobacteria naturally secrete sucrose as an osmoprotectant in the presence of salt. They have been engineered and cultivated for maximum secretion of sucrose, while allowing the organisms to maintain all of their regular metabolic functions. These organisms are grown on the surface of a composite fabric material, over which water is trickled. The composite fabric acts as a wick, efficiently distributing a minimal amount of water over the growing surface. Surrounding the gravity-fed fabric surface is a transparent enclosure into which CO2-enriched air is fed to serve as the carbon source for the sucrose photosynthesis. Proterro CEO Kef Kasdin reports that the company has successfully tested three photobioreactor systems in two regions of the U.S. “Our system…
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