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Trends Biotechnol. 2011 Feb;29(2):70-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2010.11.006. Epub 2010 Dec 27.

Waste to bioproduct conversion with undefined mixed cultures: the carboxylate platform.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Our societies generate increasing volumes of organic wastes. Considering that we also need alternatives to oil, an opportunity exists to extract liquid fuels or even industrial solvents from these abundant wastes. Anaerobic undefined mixed cultures can handle the complexity and variability of organic wastes, which produces carboxylates that can be efficiently converted to useful bioproducts. However, to date, barriers, such as inefficient liquid product separation and persistence of methanogens, have prevented the production of bioproducts other than methane. Here, we discuss combinations of biological and chemical pathways that comprise the 'carboxylate platform', which is used to convert waste to bioproducts. To develop the carboxylate platform into an important system within biorefineries, we must understand the kinetic and thermodynamic possibilities of anaerobic pathways, understand the ecological principles underlying pathway alternatives, and develop superior separation technologies.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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