Chang, H.N., Kim, N., Kang, J. et al. Biotechnol Bioproc E (2010) 15: 1. doi:10.1007/s12257-009-3070-8
The typical biorefinery platforms are sugar, thermochemical (syngas), carbon-rich chains, and biogas platforms, each offering unique advantages and disadvantages. The sugar platform uses hexose and pentose sugars extracted or converted from plant body mass. The thermochemical (syngas) platform entails a chemical or biological conversion process using pyrolysis or gasification of plants to produce biofuels. The carbon-rich chains platform is used to produce biodiesel from long-chain fatty acids or glycerides. In the present work, we suggest a new platform using volatile fatty acids (VFAs) for the production of biofuels and biochemicals production. The VFAs are short-chain fatty acids composed mainly of acetate and butyrate in the anaerobic digestion (AD) process, which does not need sterilization, additional hydrolysis enzymes (cellulose or xylanase), or a high cost pretreatment step. VFAs are easily produced from almost all kinds of biomass with low lignin content (terrestrial, aquatic, and marine biomass) by the AD process. Considering that raw material alone constitutes 40∼80% of biofuel production costs, biofuels made from VFAs derived from waste organic biomass potentially offer significant economical advantage.