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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Sustainable Biofuels and Co-products Research » Research » Research Project #439259

Research Project: Commercial Products from Lipids and Fibers

Location: Sustainable Biofuels and Co-products Research

Project Number: 8072-41000-113-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: May 20, 2020
End Date: May 19, 2025

Objective 1: Develop fermentation technologies to synthesize and expand our collection of microbial biosurfactants (i.e., mannosylerythritol lipids, trehalose lipids, cellobiose lipids, sophorolipids, rhamnolipids etc.) and assess their commercial application potential through antimicrobial activity and surfactancy. Objective 2: Develop fermentation technologies to synthesize unique polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) biopolymers from low-value agro-industrial byproducts. Objective 3: Develop technologies that enable high performance products from agricultural fibers and biopolymers.

The aim of this project is to enable the development of new commercial uses for microbially-produced lipid-based molecules (i.e., glycolipid biosurfactants, biopolymers) and agricultural protein fibers (i.e., keratin, collagen) such that the newly formed materials are more cost-effective and commercially valuable. By using a multi-faceted synthetic approach, both microbial glycolipids (i.e., sophorolipids, rhamnolipids, mannosylerythritol lipids, trehalose lipids etc) and biopolymers (i.e., polyhydroxyalkanoates) will be synthesized using both lipid-based production (fermentation) strategies and modified using green chemistry synthesis techniques. Metabolic engineering and fermentation optimization of the bioprocesses for both glycolipid and biopolymer synthesis will be studied. Particular attention will be directed towards production economics and the use of inexpensive feedstocks for fermentation protocols as well as the creation of new functionalities to the bio-based products in an effort to improve their application potential. Structure-function analyses will be conducted on all newly-synthesized/produced materials such that their application potential will be fully understood for such areas as antimicrobial agents, lubricant additives, plastic substitutes, to be further derivatized to form new biobased precursors and products (i.e., polyurethanes, amphiphilic biopolymers) and be combined with protein fibers to form green composites with improved tensile strength and toughness. The effect of fiber length and diameter will be assessed for maximum potential and electrospinning will be employed to produce fibrous mats for application in green composite formation. Techno-economic analyses will be performed on all synthetic processes that result in favorable products.