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AMB Express. 2013 Jan 7;3(1):3. doi: 10.1186/2191-0855-3-3.

A comparison of three pH control methods for revealing effects of undissociated butyric acid on specific butanol production rate in batch fermentation of Clostridium acetobutylicum.

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Forest Products Lab and Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, Auburn University, 520 Devall Drive, Auburn, AL, 36849, USA.


pH control has been essential for butanol production with Clostridium acetobutylicum. However, it is not very clear at what pH level the acid crash will occur, at what pH level butanol production will be dominant, and at what pH level butyric acid production will be prevailing. Furthermore, contradictory results have been reported about required acidic conditions for initiation of solventogenesis. In this study, with the aim of further understanding the role of undissociated butyric acid in butanol production, we investigated the correlation between undissociated butyric acid concentration and specific butanol production rate in batch fermentation of Clostridium acetobutylicum by comparing three pH control approaches: NaOH neutralization (at 12, 24 or 36 h), CaCO3 supplementation (2, 5, or 8 g/l) and NaOAc buffering (pH 4.6, 5.0 or 5.6). By neutralizing the fermentation pH to ~5.0 at different time, we observed that neutralization should take place at the beginning of exponential phase (12 h), and otherwise resulting in lower concentrations of undissociated butyric acid, cell biomass and final butanol. CaCO3 supplementation extended cell growth to 36 h and resulted in higher butyrate yield under 8 g/L of CaCO3. In the NaOAc buffering, the highest specific butanol rate (0.58 h-1) was associated with the highest undissociated butyric acid (1.92 g/L). The linear correlation of the undissociated butyric acid with the specific butanol production rates suggested the undissociated butyric acid could be the major driving force for butanol production.

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