Sustainable Chemicals and Fuels
Through Synthetic Biology

The continued use of fossil fuels is no longer tenable. A finite resource, their extraction, processing and exploitation results in environmental pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge facing global societies is to identify sustainable and cleaner processes for chemical, fuel and food production, while at the same time reducing GHG emissions, in particular CO2. Biological routes offer the most promising alternative where, to avoid conflict with the food chain, attention largely focusses on using waste, lignocellulosic biomass as the feedstock. However, its recalcitrance to deconstruction is making the development of economic processes extremely challenging.

Moreover, all currently used commercial, fermentative process are limited to the production of relatively few chemicals and fuels and all result in the net production of CO2. In the EU, for example, alcoholic fermentations annually produce 6-8 Mtons of CO2. Synthetic Biology has a major role to play in meeting current challenges through the engineering of microbial strains (chassis) that are better able to directly convert lignocellulosic biomass, or derivative feedstocks such as sugar-rich hydrolysates or synthesis gas, into a more comprehensive array of products in processes that minimise, or even eliminate, CO2 production.

Our objective is to explore the numerous options available, ranging from the:

  • microbial chassis available for manufacturing processes;
  • most attractive chemical and fuel options;
  • consideration of the most effective lignocellulose-derived feedstock
  • identity of the most efficient strategy for minimising CO2 production, and;
  • the relative merits of the use of mono culture or synthetic communities.

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