274491 Generation of High-Value Products From Biomass the Bioseparation Route

Sunday, October 28, 2012
Hall B (Convention Center )
Abhijit Tarafder, Department of Chemistry, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

Biorefineries are one of the most promising technological alternatives available in shifting from fossil-based to bio-based industries. One of the primary criteria to make biorefineries economically viable is to produce high-value co-products along with low-value bio-fuels. Various routes for manufacturing high-value products from biomass are being investigated, where a more common approach is to convert the non-fuel producing components of the biomass to high-value chemicals or materials, through synthetic routes.

While this approach is certainly useful, I propose to develop separation routes for retrieving high-value biomolecules from the biomass, without involving any reaction process. Biomolecules have attained significant attention as non-synthetic natural products, especially in areas like fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, and there is a strongly growing interest in applying biomolecular products as various other consumer items. Retrieval of high-value biomolecules from the biomass can add significant value to the overall process. For example separation of compounds like astaxanthin ($2500/kg) or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) ($4600/kg) from algal biomass will be significantly beneficial compared to the scheme of treating them similarly with the other compounds present in the algal biomass.

Separation of such products, however, can be challenging and costly. My primary tool for implementing the separation route is the chromatographic processes. Chromatography refers to a set of separation techniques known for their ability to separate mixtures of very similar molecules, especially the biomolecules. They are universally used for chemical and biological analyses and play a pivotal role in the downstreams of biopharmaceutical and fine chemical industries. Chromatography, for their ability to adapt to the changes in feed conditions, their strength in multicomponent separation and the possibility of operating them with benign operating conditions, are uniquely competent to handle the separation challenges of biorefineries. This process found limited applications in the fossil-based chemical industries, but in a bio-based industrial setup and with our growing interests in manufacturing natural products will make chromatography a crucial process option in the future industries.

In this session I will discuss the research plans I have to develop separation schemes for high-value biomolecules from different biomasses and how I plan to design economically and environmentally sustainable chromatographic processes for such separation.

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