Engineered microbial biofuel production and recovery under supercritical carbon dioxide

Jason T. Boock, Adam J.E. Freedman, Geoffrey A. Tompsett, Sarah K. Muse, Audrey J. Allen, Luke A. Jackson, Bernardo Castro-Dominguez, Michael T. Timko, Kristala L.J. Prather, Janelle R. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


Culture contamination, end-product toxicity, and energy efficient product recovery are long-standing bioprocess challenges. To solve these problems, we propose a high-pressure fermentation strategy, coupled with in situ extraction using the abundant and renewable solvent supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2), which is also known for its broad microbial lethality. Towards this goal, we report the domestication and engineering of a scCO2-tolerant strain of Bacillus megaterium, previously isolated from formation waters from the McElmo Dome CO2 field, to produce branched alcohols that have potential use as biofuels. After establishing induced-expression under scCO2, isobutanol production from 2-ketoisovalerate is observed with greater than 40% yield with co-produced isopentanol. Finally, we present a process model to compare the energy required for our process to other in situ extraction methods, such as gas stripping, finding scCO2 extraction to be potentially competitive, if not superior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number587
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2019


  • Bacillus megaterium/metabolism
  • Biofuels
  • Butanols/metabolism
  • Carbon Dioxide/metabolism
  • Fermentation
  • Keto Acids/metabolism
  • Pentanols/metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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