Deinove teams with MBI to develop AFEX/Deinol cellulosic ethanol

By Sue Retka Schill | October 16, 2014

A French cellulosic technology utilizing Deinococcus bacteria is being teamed up with Michigan State University’s ammonia-based pretreatment technology, AFEX. Deinove SA and Lansing, Mich., based MBI have formed a partnership to demonstrate the paired technologies.

Preliminary tests indicated more than 95 percent of all sugars available in the AFEX-treated biomass were assimilated by the Deinococcus bacteria in a simultaneous saccharification and fermentation process.

"The preliminary results obtained by combining AFEX and Deinococcus not only confirmed the performance of each one of our technologies," said Allen Julian, MBI's chief business officer, in a statement announcing the agreement, "but also demonstrated a compelling synergy between both. The results obtained so far confirm the extraordinary fermenting capabilities of Deinococcus bacteria, as well as their significant potential for product cost reduction. This combination is highly promising, and it could provide an answer for an industry that is seeking a technologically and economically competitive solution to the challenge of producing sustainable, low-cost biofuels."

"The outlook for demonstrating the viability of our process with MBI is very exciting," said Emmanuel Petiot, CEO of Deinove. "MBI is an expert in the development, optimization and scale-up of biobased technologies, and it has provided support for the industrialization of many production technologies in the fields of green chemistry and biofuels. Once this test campaign is finished, we will have everything we need to move on to industrial production application with our partners."

The ammonia-based AFEX pretreatment technology was developed by the Michigan State University team led by Bruce Dale. Michigan Biotechnology Institute, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation, has been working to accelerate the commercialization of AFEX and other biobased technologies for fuels, chemicals, food and feed. One of MBI’s early successes was the development of the first biodegradable polymer, PLA, in a partnership with Cargill.  In 2011, MBI received a $4.3 million grant from the U.S. DOE for a pilot scale AFEX facility to run tests at volumes of 1,000 liters or more.

Deinove has dubbed its process converting biomass into ethanol Deinol. The Deinococcus bacteria can co-assimilate all C6 and C5 sugars in a single operation, according to the company, replacing a large part of the enzyme treatment that precedes fermentation. Another advantage is the bacteria are resistant to a large number of inhibitors. According Deinove literature, “Thanks to the thermophilic qualities of Deinococcus bacteria and their ability to hydrolyze (partially) and ferment biomass into ethanol at the same time, the Deinol process can reduce equipment investments and production costs, while at the same time reducing the risk of contamination.”  

Earlier this year, Deinove announced two other partnerships. The company has licensed its technology to Abengoa and has an R&D contract with Suez Environment to explore the potential of urban waste to ethanol.