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Brige: Towards Efficient Production Of Next-Generation Cellulosic Biofuels: A Synthetic Microbial Consortia Approach

Investigators
Lin, Xiaoxia
Institutions
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Start date
2009
End date
2011
Abstract

Intellectual Merit: The PI?s long-term research goal is to develop a novel microbial consortium system for efficient and robust production of advanced biofuels from renewable lignincellulosic feedstocks. Her current focus is on the production of higher alcohols (e.g. butanol), which, compared to ethanol, are potential petroleum substitutes with exceptionally better properties (e.g. high energy densities and compatibility with existing transportation infrastructure). Inspired by the ubiquitous existence of synergistic microbial consortia in nature, the PI will explore the promising direction of engineering synthetic microbial consortia, which consist of various microbial strains, each specialized in a specific sub-task in converting cellulosic biomass to fuel molecules. In this two-year BRIGE proposal, the PI?s objective is to develop efficient and robust recombinant E. coli strains capable of working in synthetic microbial consortia to convert cellulose/hemicellulose derived sugars into butanol fuel molecules. More specifically, the PI will address the following two key components in the development of such strains. Aim 1: Engineer efficient pentose specialist for butanol production. Aim 2: Enhance butanol tolerance. When completed successfully, the proposed project will lay a solid foundation for the ultimate realization of efficient and robust microbial consortia for cellulosic biofuel production, which can potentially lead to large-scale and cost-effective next-generation bio-refinery processes. In addition, the project will advance basic understanding of microbial metabolism and physiology, such as alcohol toxicity, and will generate several recombinant microorganism engineering strategies that can be valuable for a broad range of applications. In synergy with the research efforts described above, the PI proposes education and outreach activities that aim to i) stimulate active learning in an undergraduate thermodynamics course; and ii) promote women in science and engineering. In collaboration with the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program at the University of Michigan, she will organize an engineering summer camp for K-12 school girls and mentor undergraduate and graduate female students.
Broader impacts: The proposed research will lead to efficient and robust recombinant E. coli strains capable of converting cellulose/hemicellulose derived sugars into isobutanol. Such strains will be utilizeding synthetic microbial consortia to enable consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) for cellulosic biofuels, which will potentially lead to large-scale and cost-effective production of sustainable next-generation biofuels. In addition, the project will advance basic understanding of microbial metabolism and physiology, such as alcohol toxicity, and will generate a number of recombinant microorganisms (e.g. efficient pentose specialists) and the engineering strategies associated with them which are valuable for a broad range of applications. The proposed education and outreach plan will greatly enhance the educational experiences of i) many chemical engineering undergraduate students at the University of Michigan; and ii) a spectrum of female students ranging from K-12 to undergraduate and graduate students. The outreach activities centered around female students will ultimately help in broadening the participation of women in science and engineering disciplines.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project number
926926
Categories
Natural Toxins
Escherichia coli
Bacterial Pathogens