The U.S. Department of Energy announced this month that it has awarded Lansing-based MBI and global biotech company Novozymes up to $2.5 million to develop new enzyme-based technologies to convert corn stover into sugars for subsequent conversion into biofuels.
Novozymes, a world-leading enzyme company, brings its depth of expertise in enzyme screening and development to the partnership, while MBI brings its innovative AFEXTM biomass processing technology.
"There are two major challenges in converting agricultural biomass into biobased products," said Allen Julian, Chief Business Officer of MBI. "One is the challenge of handling, storing and hauling low-density biomass to the refinery, and the other is the challenge of breaking down the biomass cost-effectively into its constituent sugars."
AFEX technology can be practiced in depots close to the farm, allowing dense biomass pellets to be economically stored and shipped to a distant biorefinery. In addition, AFEX alters the biomass structure so that enzymes can more effectively break the biomass down into fermentable sugars.
The Novozymes/MBI collaboration is aimed at tailoring enzymes for AFEX-treated biomass, which will in turn enable the production of low-cost fermentable sugars. Such non-food biomass sugars can be converted into bio-based fuels, chemicals and other products.
MBI previously won a $4.3 million Department of Energy award to develop and scale up its AFEX technology. Under this project, MBI is currently completing the installation of a 1 ton-per-day pilot-scale AFEX reactor at its Lansing, Michigan facility.
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