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Potential of thin stillage as a low-cost nutrient source for direct cellulose fermentation by Clostridium thermocellum

1 Department of Biosystems Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada;
2 Department of Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada

Special Issues: Advances in Production of Biofuels

Utilization of thin stillage (TS), derived from grain-based ethanol production, was investigated as an alternative source for microbial growth nutrients during direct conversion of cellulose by Clostridium thermocellum DSM 1237. Fermentation end-products synthesized by C. thermocellum grown on media prepared with various concentrations (50-400 g/L) of TS were compared to those synthesized by C. thermocellum grown on reagent grade chemical (reference) medium. Cell-growth in TS media, monitored with the aid of quantitative polymerase chain reactions (qPCR) technique, showed prolonged growth with increasing TS concentration. Final fermentation end-product concentrations from TS media were comparable with those from the reference medium despite lower growth-rates. The volumetric H2 production generated by C. thermocellum grown with medium containing a low concentration (50 g/L) of TS matched the volumetric H2 production by C. thermocellum grown in the reference medium, while higher concentrations (200 g/L) of TS resulted in greater synthesis of ethanol. Supplementation of TS-media with Mg++ enhanced ethanol production, while hydrogen production remained unchanged. These results suggest that TS, an attractive source of low-cost nutrients, is capable of supporting the growth of C. thermocellum and that high concentrations of TS favor synthesis of ethanol over hydrogen from cellulose.
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