MBI issued biomass pretreatment technology patent

By Michigan Biotechnology Institute | September 14, 2015

MBI today announced its innovative biomass pretreatment patent (patent no. 9,102,964) has been issued by the USPTO. The granting of this patent represents a major milestone in the development and commercialization of its AFEX technology.

For every ton of corn, wheat, and rice harvested today, an equal amount of biomass is left behind on the fields. Within this biomass—of which nearly 2 billion tons are produced each year around the world—nature locks away huge stores of inaccessible sugars. AFEX technology partners with nature, unlocking these sugars and upgrading the biomass into a sustainable source of both cattle feed or a feedstock for cellulosic biofuels and chemicals.

The AFEX technology is a game-changing agricultural innovation, sustainably expanding our capacity to supply both cattle feed and transportation fuels, while reducing our environmental footprint. Conceived at MBI in 2010, this latest innovation represents a major breakthrough in the cost, scalability, and commercial viability of the technology. “What is exciting about this patented breakthrough is that it enables a low-cost production of AFEX pretreated biomass, while cost-effectively recycling and reusing the catalyst used during the process,” said Tim Campbell, MBI’s project manager and AFEX process engineer—also the lead inventor on the patent. “This innovation makes the AFEX process highly robust as well as simple to reproduce and operate. If not for the design breakthrough covered by this patent, the enormous potential global impact of AFEX technology could not be economically realized.”

The newly issued patent expands the AFEX technology intellectual property portfolio, which Michigan State University and later MBI—have been developing since MSU Distinguished Professor Bruce Dale invented the technology. This patented technology has been successfully scaled 100-fold, leading to the current one-ton-per-day AFEX pilot plant, at MBI’s Lansing, Michigan facility.

In addition to celebrating the issuance of its key patent, MBI recently achieved another milestone: the production of over 500 batches (15 tons) of AFEX pretreated biomass. Taken together, the patent and production milestones demonstrate the technology’s innovativeness, as well as its robust, consistent performance.

“Currently, we are focused on advancing AFEX technology from pilot to demonstration scale in order to showcase its viability and efficacy for both cattle feed and fuels applications,” said Bobby Bringi, MBI’s CEO. “MBI is commercializing this technology on behalf of MSU. Ultimately, our vision is to broadly share this technology to maximize its global societal benefits.”