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Syngas-to-lipids process demonstrated

By Scott Jenkins |

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, Mass.; www.mit.edu) have demonstrated a two-stage process to convert synthesis gas (syngas) into lipids that can be used in biodiesel production. Eventually, such a process could be used to convert waste gases from steel mills into liquid transportation fuels. In the first stage of the process, an anaerobic bioreactor converts a mixture of CO2, CO and H2 to acetic acid, using the anaerobic bacterium Moorella thermoacetica. The acetic acid product is fed as a substrate to a second bioreactor, where it is converted aerobically into lipids by an engineered oleaginous yeast, Yarrowia lipolytica, the research team explains. The MIT group’s integrated, continuous, bench-scale reactor system produced 18 g/L of C16 to C18 triacylglycerides directly from synthesis gas. Although the productivity of the overall system still needs to be optimized, the integrated system demonstrates the feasibility of substantial net fixation of carbon dioxide and conversion of gaseous feedstocks to lipids for biodiesel production, the teams says.
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