One of the main bottlenecks of second-generation biofuel is the conversion yields from biomass to biofuel. At each separate stage of biorefining (plant breeding, biomass pre-treatment, cellulose hydrolysis and sugar fermentation), there are significant losses in carbon that impact yield, and these multiply over the entire process chain, resulting in low overall product yields from the starting biomass feedback, resulting in a huge economical hindrance to the entire process, contributing to approximately 70% of the overall production cost.
The MAXBio project aims to improve conversion yield from plant biomass of under-utilized cereal straw (barley, wheat) into biofuel and chemical products by applying recent innovative research discoveries to maximize biorefining across the entire process. The holistic approach is undertaken by the collaboration of three academic bodies, with University of Dundee focusing at maximizing sugar release aided by research advances in plant genetics; University of York on developing novel methods and enzymes for pre-treatment and hydrolysis, and University of Nottingham concentrating on microbe engineering for targeting highly sought for biofuel and chemicals, including 2,3-butanediol, isobutanol, 3HP, succinate etc. Improvement on the multiple conversion steps will be made in parallel and integrated to find the overall optimal solution across the whole system.
In addition, the whole project is supported by 3 industrial biotechnology companies, Green Biologics, CHAIN Biotech and Corbion. Each company will support fermentation development together with process concepts and outline economics for a conceptual biorefinery.
Ultimately, with the collaboration of leading academics across the biorefinery chain and with considerable industrial support, MAXBio aims to deliver results for a more sustainable biobased UK economy.