The overall goal of this multidisciplinary project financed by Formas is to suggest the appropriate structure and function of a profitable biorefinery feeding on a mixture of selected waste products and using biotechnology, enzymatic catalysis and polymer technology to produce a range of products of both low and high value.
The project wants to challenge the present approach to biorefinery implementation, which in principle can be described as being an intelligent way of “waste disposal”, while at the same time producing some interesting consumer products. There is broad agreement between the partners of the project and the stakeholder reference group that there is a need to look at biorefineries from a commercial viewpoint driving optimization of yield and productivity of the core processes in order to be economically viable.
The heart of the processes used to produce biofuels in biorefineries is the biotechnological process. With the recent and massive investments in research in biotechnology and material sciences we may now equally well produce also (bio)chemicals and biomaterials i.e. higher value products. It is thus the prerequisites of the biotech-based processes that the project will primarily scrutinize i.e. which biomass or biomass combinations are best suited to build (increased) value from the biorefinery in relation to the bioprocess performance for dedicated products?
The favored biomass feedstock today, lignocellulose, contains only carbohydrates. It goes without saying that this is a very restricted diet that will have little success in creating optimal surroundings for production using microbial cells, which are at least as sensitive to food composition as for instance humans. The project will mix lignocellulose with other substrates, in particular food waste, a medium which contain all sorts of nutrients since it obviously were produced as nutritious for humans, and which is locally available in large amounts (over 900 kilotonnes per year in Sweden alone). An important and challenging target of this project is the identification of new fractionation processes for food waste which will be able to handle a varying composition and still provide an optimal nutrient composition for the microbial cells. It remains to determine if this approach is viable and for this the project will generate new data.