At Biomass Conversion and Bioprocess Technology group we implement efficient technologies to improve the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of biomass pre-treatment step in order to recover sugars or oligosaccharides from cellulose and hemicellulose fractions, lignin, proteins, among other valuable compounds present in biomass composition.
We have great experience in using processes (biochemical, thermo-chemical, physical or a combination of these) that lead to the highest conversion yields of targeted biomass components for further valorisation of all fractions of the feedstock.
The pre-treatment process chosen for a certain type of biomass must also satisfy a series of requirements in order to be used in an integrated biorefinery set-up.
These requirements comprise milder processing conditions in comparison to existing processes, lower production of inhibitor compounds and waste streams, reduced energy demands and costs, as well as lower environmental footprint.
The identification and removal of inhibitory compounds formed during biomass pre-treatment is also an important step for improving hydrolysate utilisation through bioconversion processes.
At BCBT group, we have the required know-how and proper tools to identify compounds, such as acetic acid, sugar and lignin degradation products, which are toxic to microorganisms and inhibit their metabolism during fermentation.
Depending on the hydrolysate composition, the microbial resistance to inhibitors and the product of interest, we select the most efficient detoxification method to reduce the concentration of toxic compounds that have a negative impact on subsequent process stages.
The development of microbial strains with improved ability to convert sugars from non-conventional complex media (e.g. lignocellulosic hydrolysates) and conditions is also performed at BCBT group as a different approach to improve fermentation performance.
We use adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE) to improve the robustness of strains to factors such as presence of inhibitory compounds in the medium, high substrate or product concentration, high or low temperature or extreme pHs, etc.
Our strains have demonstrated high potential for application in different types of biomass hydrolysates.
When necessary, we also combine ALE with metabolic engineering to have new strains with ability to produce a target bioproduct with high efficiency.
Process optimization is a way to reduce time, resources and money spent in a process, while identifying the conditions able to lead to maximum results.
At BCBT group, we get maximum efficiency of our bioprocesses by applying high-throughput procedures to optimize microbial growth, statistical tools for the selection of optimal fermentation conditions, and scale up concepts to speed up the production of the target product.
With our knowledge in bioprocess engineering, process integration, process intensification and optimization, we are able to develop novel, more cost-effective and efficient fermentation processes.
Separation and purification of bio-based molecules of high industrial interest can be an important bottleneck in terms of productivity and cost competitiveness (accounting for a major part of the overall production cost).
At Biomass Conversion and Bioprocess Technology group, we foster the use of time- and cost-effective technologies for the separation and purification of a wide range of products for feasible subsequent application at industrial level.
Techno-economic assessment is a key tool for providing decision-making information for new investment steps. This analysis consists of several steps including evaluation of project feasibility, capital costs, operating costs, revenues, and profitability measures.
In our group, we perform techno-economic assessment of different processes or biorefinery scenarios in order to identify the most promising option for application in an industrial scale.
We also use this tool to identify which step of an overall process is contributing more significantly to the final costs. Then we use this information as basis to develop new low-cost alternatives for the identified step.