, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 48-55

Ethanol production from xylose by Thermoanaerobacter ethanolicus in batch and continuous culture

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The fermentation of xylose by Thermoanaerobacter ethanolicus ATCC 31938 was studied in pH-controlled batch and continuous cultures. In batch culture, a dependency of growth rate, product yield, and product distribution upon xylose concentration was observed. With 27 mM xylose media, an ethanol yield of 1.3 mol ethanol/mol xylose (78% of maximum theoretical yield) was typically obtained. With the same media, xylose-limited growth in continuous culture could be achieved with a volumetric productivity of 0.50 g ethanol/liter h and a yield of 0.42 g ethanol/g xylose (1.37 mol ethanol/mol xylose). With extended operation of the chemostat, variation in xylose uptake and a decline in ethanol yield was seen. Instability with respect to fermentation performance was attributed to a selection for mutant populations with different metabolic characteristics. Ethanol production in these T. ethanolicus systems was compared with xylose-to-ethanol conversions of other organisms. Relative to the other systems, T. ethanolicus offers the advantages of a high ethanol yield at low xylose concentrations in batch culture and of a rapid growth rate. Its disadvantages include a lower ethanol yield at higher xylose concentrations in batch culture and an instability of fermentation characteristics in continuous culture.