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5-Carbon Alcohols for Drop-in Gasoline Replacement

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing SummaryJay Keasling and Howard Chou of Berkeley Lab and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have invented a fermentation process to produce 5-carbon alcohols from genetically modified E. coli host cells regardless of the feedstock used. This is the first time isopentanol has been synthesized from the isoprenoid pathway. DescriptionThe Berkeley Lab technology yields the following 5-carbon alcohols from the genetically modified host cell: 3-methyl-2-buten-1-ol; 3-methyl-3-buten-1-ol; or 3-methyl-butan-1-ol. These alcohols have the potential to replace up to 100% of the 5-carbon hydrocarbons that comprise as much as 20% of gasoline, thus offering up to a 20% replacement of gasoline.

The resulting isopentanol has an energy content of 107.7 MJ/gallon—higher than ethanol (79.4 MJ/gallon) and butanol (102.1 MJ/gallon) and approaching the energy content of gasoline (121.0 MJ/gallon). In addition, isopentanol does not require the use of flexible fuel vehicles or engine modifications.

Production costs for electricity and water use are lower than those for ethanol because the Berkeley Lab fuel can be processed in a centrifuge or siphoned off rather than distilled. Since the new fuel is less soluble in water than ethanol or butanol, less energy intensive processes may be required to separate the fuel from the fermentation broth during production. Low water solubility offers further cost advantages by enabling shipment of the fuel in the existing petroleum pipeline infrastructure. Finally, production need not compete with food crops for land and natural resources.
Benefits
  • Higher energy content than ethanol and butanol
  • Compatible with standard vehicles and engines
  • Potential for lower cost, less energy-intensive production than other fuels
  • Low water solubility enables distribution via pipeline
Applications and Industries
  • Gasoline replacement
More InformationPCT application filed.
PCT Publication No. WO/2009/006429
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
IB-2392Proposed - Additional R&D required for commercialization.Available02/12/201002/12/2010

Contact LBL About This Technology

To: Shanshan Li<ipo@lbl.gov>