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Conversion of Biomass Sugars via Fermentation

Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

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Technology Marketing Summary

Microorganisms like yeast and Escherichia coli are cultured in labs for many purposes, notably the production of useful chemicals (such as ethanol) via fermentation. The growth media used in these processes are relatively expensive. Cheaper media derived from renewable resources would be a boon to researchers and industries that rely on microorganisms in their work.

UW–Madison researchers previously developed a mild and efficient method for breaking down biomass into its constituent C5 and C6 sugars (e.g., xylose and glucose). The next step is to use these sugars to grow useful microorganisms.


The researchers have now developed just such an integrated conversion process: using biomass-derived sugars to culture microorganisms that in turn convert biomass into fuels, commodity chemicals and fatty acids.

In the process, biomass is reacted with a lactone like GVL (gamma-valerolactone), water and an acid catalyst. The reaction yields a mixture containing C5 and C6 sugar oligomers and monomers. The lactone is separated out, leaving an aqueous carbohydrate layer that can act as a fermentable substrate for (genetically engineered or wild-type) microorganisms like yeast, E. coli and Lactobacillus casei.

  • Links biomass, microorganisms and end products
  • No harsh conditions or enzymes
  • GVL is produced from renewable biomass.
  • Process is fast, sustainable and economical.
Applications and Industries
  • Culturing useful microorganisms
  • Converting biomass to commodity chemicals
More Information

For More Information About the Inventors

Brian Pfleger

James Dumesic

Related Portfolios

UW–Madison Technologies Developed Through the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

Related Technologies

WARF reference number P140075US01 describes the researchers’ biomass pretreatment method that yields high concentrations of C5 and C6 carbohydrates.

WARF reference number P130123US01 describes a biomass conversion strategy using recyclable GVL solvent.

Tech Fields

Clean Technology : Biofuels & renewable fuels

Clean Technology : Bio-based & renewable chemicals

Technology Status
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