1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Project seeks to create technology to convert waste biomass into bioenergy.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Research will be conducted to convert underutilized waste streams, such as ag-residues, municipal solid waste, processing waste and food wastes into bioenergy. This includes biomass characterization, enzyme optimization and improved production of biomethane and ethanol.
A graduate student from cooperator’s laboratory in Pakistan arrived for a six month detail in the U.S. lab. The student started research to clone and characterize an alkaline thermostable protease (protein-degrading) enzyme from a Bacillus licheniformis strain. This strain was isolated from Pakistan because it has particularly interesting properties for biomass pretreatment – converting waste material into simple sugars. The Bacillus strain was purified in the cooperator’s lab and the resulting protease enzyme was fully characterized. Research in Albany, California included cloning the particular gene responsible for the protease enzyme and then characterizing the recombinant enzyme. The cooperator in Pakistan continues research on samples of lignocellulosic wastes. These samples were then sent to California for further characterization by electron microscopy and chemical/spectral analysis.
In another aspect of the research, a pilot-scale digestor will be finished in the next nine months including initial test runs. Lab work on enzyme development, microbe improvement, and biomass pretreatment methods will continue. Arrangements are being made for another graduate student to come to Albany from Pakistan. Collaborative research will continue especially focusing on enzymes that breakdown pectin which is useful in both the biofuels and food industries. This research meets the parent project objective 1: "Develop enzyme-based technologies (based on cleaving specific covalent crosslinks which underlie plant cell wall recalcitrance) thereby enabling new commercially-viable* saccharification processes".