TU Delft and the Kluyver Centre in the Netherlands have developed an innovative technology for efficient production of bioethanol from agricultural waste and licensed it to the Life Sciences and Material Sciences company DSM. As part of this licence agreement, DSM is investing in follow-up research at TU Delft. In 2009, TU Delft researchers achieved important improvements in the production of ethanol from waste products by incorporating a single bacteria gene in yeast. This modified yeast produces more ethanol and fewer by-products. DSM is aiming for a further improvement in production by including this concept in its advanced yeast for the production of second-generation biofuels from agricultural waste. On 23 February, DSM will reveal more information about the licence agreement during the Industrial Biotech World Europe congress in Amsterdam.
In the week of 20 November 2009, Jack Pronk and colleague researchers at TU Delft and the Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation published an article in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology describing three important improvements in the production of ethanol from agricultural waste. The incorporation of a single bacteria gene in baker’s yeast, the micro-organism used to produce ethanol, brings three important benefits: the ethanol yield can be significantly increased, the by-product glycerol can be eliminated and acetate – a compound which frequently occurs in agricultural waste and which inhibits ethanol production – can be partially converted into ethanol. As Jack Pronk, Professor of Industrial Microbiology at TU Delft, explains, “The idea for this invention came during a lecture for second-year students. The Kluyver Centre then gave us the opportunity to develop the idea as a doctoral project. It’s just fantastic that now, together with DSM, we can work towards large-scale industrial application of this invention.”
For DSM the licence agreement is an excellent opportunity to investigate further production improvements for this yeast. “The advanced yeast is already producing over twice the amount of ethanol from biomass than standard production organisms currently on the market,” says Piet van Egmond, R&D programme manager at DSM. “If the yeast performs just as well under practical conditions as it does in the experiments at TU Delft, then it will bring the breakthrough of second-generation biofuels a step closer.”
DSM is investing in follow-up research at the Kluyver Centre. Moreover, DSM and TU Delft are examining possibilities for making this technology available to third parties.