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Evaluation of hydrophobic micro-zeolite-mixed matrix membrane and integrated with acetone–butanol–ethanol fermentation for enhanced butanol production

Xue, Chuang, Yang, Decai, Du, Guangqing, Chen, Lijie, Ren, Jiangang, Bai, Fengwu
Biotechnology for biofuels 2015 v.8 no.1 pp. 105
acetone, acids, adsorption, batch fermentation, biofuels, biomass, butanol, culture media, energy, ethanol, glucose, hydrophobicity, pervaporation, polydimethylsiloxane, porosity, separation, temperature, zeolites
BACKGROUND: Butanol is regarded as an advanced biofuel that can be derived from renewable biomass. However, the main challenge for microbial butanol production is low butanol titer, yield and productivity, leading to intensive energy consumption in product recovery. Various alternative separation technologies such as extraction, adsorption and gas stripping, etc., could be integrated with acetone–butanol–ethanol (ABE) fermentation with improving butanol productivity, but their butanol selectivities are not satisfactory. The membrane-based pervaporation technology is recently attracting increasing attention since it has potentially desirable butanol selectivity. RESULTS: The performance of the zeolite-mixed polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) membranes were evaluated to recover butanol from butanol/water binary solution as well as fermentation broth in the integrated ABE fermentation system. The separation factor and butanol titer in permeate of the zeolite-mixed PDMS membrane were up to 33.0 and 334.6 g/L at 80°C, respectively, which increased with increasing zeolite loading weight in the membrane as well as feed temperature. The enhanced butanol separation factor was attributed to the hydrophobic zeolites with large pore size providing selective routes preferable for butanol permeation. In fed-batch fermentation incorporated with pervaporation, 54.9 g/L ABE (34.5 g/L butanol, 17.0 g/L acetone and 3.4 g/L ethanol) were produced from 172.3 g/L glucose. The overall butanol productivity and yield increased by 16.0 and 11.1%, respectively, which was attributed to the alleviated butanol inhibition by pervaporation and reassimilation of acids for ABE production. The zeolite-mixed membrane produced a highly concentrated condensate containing 169.6 g/L butanol or 253.3 g/L ABE, which after phase separation easily gave the final product containing >600 g/L butanol. CONCLUSIONS: Zeolite loading in the PDMS matrix was attributed to improving the pervaporative performance of the membrane, showing great potential to recover butanol with high purity. Therefore, this zeolite-mixed PDMS membrane had the potential to improve biobutanol production when integrating with ABE fermentation.