MFI zeolite as adsorbent for selective recovery of hydrocarbons from ABE fermentation broths


1-Butanol and butyric acid are two interesting compounds that may be produced by acetone, butanol, and ethanol fermentation using e.g. Clostridium acetobutylicum. The main drawback, restricting the commercialization potential of this process, is the toxicity of butanol for the cell culture resulting in low concentrations of this compound in the broth. To make this process economically viable, an efficient recovery process has to be developed. In this work, a hydrophobic MFI type zeolite with high silica to alumina ratio was evaluated as adsorbent for the recovery of butanol and butyric acid from model solutions. Dual component adsorption experiments revealed that both butanol and butyric acid showed a high affinity for the hydrophobic MFI zeolite when adsorbed from aqueous model solutions. Multicomponent adsorption experiments using model solutions, mimicking real fermentation broths, revealed that the adsorbent was very selective to the target compounds. Further, the adsorption of butyric and acetic acid was found to be pH dependent with high adsorption below, and low adsorption above, the respective pKa values of the acids. Thermal desorption of butanol from MFI type zeolite was also studied and a suitable desorption temperature was identified.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4



Acetone, Butanol and Ethanol






Langmuir adsorption parameter (L/g)

qmax :

Saturation loading (g/g)

i :

Adsorbate specie i

e :



  1. Bowen, T.C., Vane, L.M.: Ethanol, acetic acid and water adsorption from binary and ternary liquid mixtures on high silica zeolites. Langmuir 22, 3721–3727 (2006)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Cascone, R.: Biobutanol—a replacement for bioethanol? Chem. Eng. Prog. 104, S4–S9 (2008)

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Durre, P.: New insights and novel developments in clostridial acetone/butanol/isopropanol fermentation. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 49, 639–648 (1998)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Ezeji, T.C., Qureshi, N., Blaschek, H.P.: Butanol fermentation research upstream and downstream manipulations. Chem. Rec. 4, 305–314 (2004)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Ezeji, T.C., Qureshi, N., Blaschek, H.P.: Bioproduction of butanol from biomass: from gases to bioreactors. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 18, 220–227 (2007)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Garcia, V., Päkkailä, J., Ojamo, H., Murrinen, E., Keiski, R.L.: Challenges in biobutanol production: how to improve the efficiency? Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 15, 964–980 (2011)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Immerseel, F.V., Boyen, F., Gantoist, I., Timbermont, L., Bohez, L., Pasmans, F., Haesebrouck, F., Ducatelle, R.: Supplementation of coated butyric acid in the feed reduces colonization and shedding of Salmonella in poultry. Pollut. Sci. 84, 1851–1856 (2005)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Jin, C., Yao, M., Liu, H., Lee, C.F., Ji, J.: Progress in the production and application of n-butanol as a biofuel. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 15, 4080–4106 (2011)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Maddox, I.S.: Use of silicalite for the adsorption of n-butanol from fermentation liquors. Biotechnol. Lett. 4, 759–760 (1982)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Meagher, M., Qureshi, N., Hutkins, R. (1998) Silicalite membrane and method for selective recovery and concentration of acetone and 1-butanol from model ABE solutions and fermentation broth, US Patent 5755967

  11. Milestone, N.B., Bibby, D.M.: Concentrations of alcohols by adsorption on silicalite. J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol. 31, 732–736 (1981)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Milestone, N.B., Bibby, D.M.: Adsorption of alcohols from aqueous solutions by ZSM-5. J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol. 34A, 73–79 (1983)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Oudshoorn, A., van der Wielen, L.A.M., Straathof, A.J.J.: Adsorption equilibria of bio-based butanol solutions using zeolite. Biochem. Eng. J. 48, 99–103 (2009a)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Oudshoorn, A., van der Wielen, L.A.M., Straathof, A.J.J.: Assessment of option for selective 1-butanol recovery from aqueous solutions. Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 48, 7325–7336 (2009b)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Qureshi, N., Hughes, S., Maddox, I.S., Cotta, M.A.: Energy efficient recovery of butanol from model solutions and fermentation broth by adsorption. Bioprocess Biosyst. Eng. 27, 215–222 (2005)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Saravanan, V., Waijiers, D.A., Ziari, M., Noordermeer, M.A.: Recovery of 1-butanol from aqueous solutions using zeolite ZSM-5 with a high Si/Al ratio; suitability of a column process for industrial applications. Biochem. Eng. J. 49, 33–39 (2010)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Woods, D.R.: The genetic engineering of microbial solvent production. Trends Biotechnol. 13, 259–264 (1995)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors wish to thank Formas, the Swedish Energy Agency, VINNOVA, Smurfit Kappa and Bio4Energy, a strategic research environment appointed by the Swedish government, for financially supporting this work. Also sincere thanks go to Dr. Hesham Ahmed for his assistance with the TG-MS measurements.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mattias Grahn.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Faisal, A., Zarebska, A., Saremi, P. et al. MFI zeolite as adsorbent for selective recovery of hydrocarbons from ABE fermentation broths. Adsorption 20, 465–470 (2014).

Download citation


  • Butanol
  • Adsorption
  • Zeolites
  • Langmuir
  • Butyric acid
  • MFI