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Biofilm formation and ethanol inhibition by bacterial contaminants of biofuel fermentation

Rich, Joseph O., Leathers, Timothy D., Bischoff, Kenneth M., Anderson, Amber M., Nunnally, Melinda S.
Bioresource technology 2015 v.196 pp. 347-354
Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus mucosae, Lactobacillus plantarum, acetic acid, bacterial contamination, biofilm, biofuels, corn, ethanol, ethanol fuels, ethanol production, fermentation, liquefaction, longitudinal studies, mucosa, tanks, yeasts
Bacterial contaminants can inhibit ethanol production in biofuel fermentations, and even result in stuck fermentations. Contaminants may persist in production facilities by forming recalcitrant biofilms. A two-year longitudinal study was conducted of bacterial contaminants from a Midwestern dry grind corn fuel ethanol facility. Among eight sites sampled in the facility, the combined liquefaction stream and yeast propagation tank were consistently contaminated, leading to contamination of early fermentation tanks. Among 768 contaminants isolated, 92% were identified as Lactobacillus sp., with the most abundant species being L. plantarum, L. casei, L. mucosae, and L. fermentum. Seven percent of total isolates showed the ability to form biofilms in pure cultures, and 22% showed the capacity to significantly inhibit ethanol production. However, these traits were not correlated. Ethanol inhibition appeared to be related to acetic acid production by contaminants, particularly by obligately heterofermentative species such as L. fermentum and L. mucosae.