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Research Carboxylate Platform

The carboxylate platform consists of at least one bioprocessing step with reactor microbiomes (open cultures of microbial consortia) that converts organic materials, such as wastewaters, into useful products. The final end product can be carboxylic acids, such as acetatic acid, n-butyric acid, n-caproate, and n-caprylic acid but can also be, for example, methane in anaerobic digesters because then the intermediate chemical acetate is quickly converted by methanogenesis, while maintaining a high carboxylate flux. The carboxylate platform is important in biorefineries because it not only increases bioenergy yields but it also is integral in recovering/recylcing nutrients and water. You can read all about the carboxylate platform in our review paper in Trends in Biotechnology. We have shaped a microbiome that converted a complex substrate in primarily the medium-chain carboxylate n-caproate (~80% selectivity based on C). This was published in Energy and Environmental Science.

We are currently optimizing extraction and separation technologies to economically remove these medium-chain carboxylates from the liquor in our bioreactors. For example, together with our collaborators at LabMET (Prof. Korneel Rabaey) we have integrated an abiotic electrochemical cell as a secondary microbial electrochemical technology. You can read about this in the research paper in ChemComm. It is also important to manage the microbiomes in our bioprocesses to optimize carboxylate production pathways. For this we work within the interdisciplinary space of biological engineering, microbiology, metagenomics with highly-parallel sequencing efforts, bioinformatics and statistics, and ecology theory. A good example of this effort in our lab is a research paper in PNAS.