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BMC Chemical Engineering




Recent advances in metabolic engineering have enabled the production of chemicals via bio-conversion using microbes. However, downstream separation accounts for 60–80% of the total production cost in many cases. Previous work on microbial production of extracellular chemicals has been mainly restricted to microbiology, biochemistry, metabolomics, or techno-economic analysis for specific product examples such as succinic acid, xanthan gum, lycopene, etc. In these studies, microbial production and separation technologies were selected apriori without considering any competing alternatives. However, technology selection in downstream separation and purification processes can have a major impact on the overall costs, product recovery, and purity. To this end, we apply a superstructure optimization based framework that enables the identification of critical technologies and their associated parameters in the synthesis and analysis of separation processes for extracellular chemicals generated from microbial conversions. We divide extracellular chemicals into three categories based on their physical properties, such as water solubility, physical state, relative density, volatility, etc. We analyze three major extracellular product categories (insoluble light, insoluble heavy and soluble) in detail and provide suggestions for additional product categories through extension of our analysis framework. The proposed analysis and results provide significant insights for technology selection and enable streamlined decision making when faced with any microbial product that is released extracellularly. The parameter variability analysis for the product as well as the associated technologies and comparison with novel alternatives is a key feature which forms the basis for designing better bioseparation strategies that have potential for commercial scalability and can compete with traditional chemical production methods.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.