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Development of Customized Enzyme Cocktail for Corn Stover and Switchgrass Saccharification

2014 DOT-RITA Center Award 


Principal Investigators and affiliations:

PI:  Dr. Mostafa Elshaded (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Oklahoma State University)
Co-PI:  Dr. Noha H. Youssef (Oklahoma State University)

Funded: $135,000

Start Date: 1/1/2014

End Date: 12/31/2015


Expected Outcomes

Ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass using a biochemical approach involves utilizing enzymes that mobilize and deconstruct plant polymers (cellulose and hemicellulose) to sugar monomers, which could subsequently be converted to ethanol by fermentative microorganisms. Development of enzyme preparations that maximize sugar extraction from plant biomass is a highly desirable goal that could significantly lower the costs associated with cellulosic ethanol production.


The goal of this proposal is to develop two different customized enzyme cocktails for use in sugar extraction from corn stover and switchgrass. These enzymes will be derived from Orpinomyces sp. strain C1A, an anaerobic fungal strain that was isolated and characterized in our laboratory.


The project will yield multiple individual enzymes, as well as two enzyme cocktails targeting corn stover, and switchgrass, respectively. These products would maximize sugar release from lignocellulosic biomass, a step identified as the main hurdle needed to overcome for bringing the cost of cellulosic ethanol closer to commercial viability.  It has been estimated that the cost of biomass (mainly its harvesting and transport) is roughly equal to 1/3-1/2 the cost of the ethanol production process. Therefore, increasing the proportion of sugars extracted would improve the economics of the process, with a 40% increase in sugar release roughly translated to 15-20% cost savings.

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