Butanol recovery from fermentations by liquid-liquid extraction and membrane solvent extraction
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Extraction can successfully be used for in-situ alcohol recovery in butanol fermentations to increase the substrate conversion. An advantage of extraction over other recovery methods may be the high capacity of the solvent and the high selectivity of the alcohol/water separation. Extraction, however, is a comprehensive operation, and the design of an extraction apparatus can be complex. The aim of this study is to assess the practical applicability of liquid-liquid extraction and membrane solvent extraction in butanol fermentations. In this view various aspects of extraction processes were investigated.
Thirty-six chemicals were tested for the distribution coefficient for butanol, the selectivity of alcohol/water separation and the toxicity towards Clostridia. Convenient extractants were found in the group of esters with high molar mass.
Liquid-liquid extraction was carried out in a stirred fermenter and a spray column. The formation of emulsions and the fouling of the solvent in a fermentation broth causes problems with the operation of this type of equipment. With membrane solvent extraction, in which the solvent is separated from the broth by a membrane, a dispersion-free extraction is possible, leading to an easy operation of the equipment. In this case the mass transfer in the membrane becomes important.
With membrane solvent extraction the development of a process is emphasized in which the extraction characteristics of the solvent are combined with the property of silicone rubber membranes to separate butanol from water. In the case of apolar solvents with a high molar mass, the characteristics of the membrane process are determined completely by the solvent. In the case of polar solvents (e.g. ethylene glycol), the permselectivity of the membrane can profitably be used. This concept leads to a novel type of extraction process in which alcohol is extracted with a water-soluble solvent via a hydrophobic semipermeable membrane. This extraction process has been investigated for the recovery of butanol and ethanol from water. A major drawback in all processes with membrane solvent extraction was the permeation of part of the solvent to the aqueous phase.
The extraction processes were coupled to batch, fed batch and continuous butanol fermentations to affirm the applicability of the recovery techniques in the actual process. In the batch and fed batch fermentations a three-fold increase in the substrate consumption could be achieved, in the continuous fermentation about 30% increase.
KeywordsFermentation Butanol Extraction Process Batch Fermentation Semipermeable Membrane
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