Renewable Feedstocks

Plant-based feedstocks are starting materials for any biomass conversion or bio-based production process. This track focuses on advances in the manipulation, analysis, and collection, storage and handling logistics of renewable feedstocks intended for subsequent conversion. Engineering or selection of feedstocks to enhance thermal, chemical, enzymatic or microbial plant cell wall deconstruction reaction rates or yields are of particular interest. The following lists non-exclusive topics of specific interest for this track:

  • Genetic and environmental manipulation of biomass feedstocks for improved conversion traits
  • Analytical methodologies for characterization of feedstocks in the laboratory or field
  • Comparative analyses or evaluation of the performance different feedstocks in preprocessing and/or conversion processes
  • Enhanced agricultural, silvicultural and land-use practices for growing and harvesting renewable feedstocks more efficiently
  • Harvesting, storage, pre-processing and transportation of feedstocks

Feedstock Pretreatment and Fractionation

Pretreatment and fractionation encompass a wide variety of disparate processing approaches to make renewable plant-derived feedstocks more amenable to enzymatic or microbial biological conversion. Numerous pretreatment and fractionation methods exist, each having distinct advantages and drawbacks. Of particular interest are advances in technical approaches that decrease costs by increasing rates and yields of conversion products or by lowering equipment (CAPEX) and operating (OPEX) costs. Fractionation methods used to subdivide plant-materials into their major constituents (cellulose, hemicellulose, starch, other polysaccharides, lignin) are also of high interest. The following lists non-exclusive topics of specific interest for this track:

  • Thermal processes to make biomass feedstocks more amenable to enzymatic or microbial conversion (i.e., not direct conversion)
  • Acid, neutral, or alkaline processes to increase susceptibility of biomass feedstocks to enzymatic or microbial conversion
  • Mechanical, ionic liquid, gas-phase, or other technologies to improve biomass feedstocks reactivity to subsequent enzymatic or microbial conversion
  • Physical or chemical processes to separate plant materials into distinct subcomponent fractions
  • Combinations of processes listed above

Enzyme Engineering and Biochemistry

Enzymes are central to biological production of fuels and chemicals from renewable plant-based feedstocks, whether through deconstruction of lignocellulose, conversion of biomass-derived intermediates to products, or via autotrophic carbon fixation. This track will highlight advances in enzyme discovery, characterization and kinetic analysis, protein engineering, and structure- and model-driven understanding of catalytic reaction mechanisms. Of particular interest are advances in improving enzyme thermostability, elucidating oxidative mechanisms of enzymatic biomass deconstruction, understanding enzyme synergy in biomass conversion, and developing robust consolidated bioprocessing-based conversion processes. The following lists non-exclusive topics of specific interest for this track:

  • New and improved assay methods and characterization techniques for plant cell wall depolymerizing enzymes
  • Enzyme engineering for improved specific activity, thermostability, substrate utilization, and process condition tolerance
  • Enzymatic deconstruction and/or upgrading of lignin
  • The role of oxidative enzymes in plant cell wall deconstruction
  • The function and application of expansins, swollenins, and other “accessory enzymes” that facilitate plant cell wall disruption
  • Enzyme synergy in cellulosic biomass hydrolysis: cellulases, hemicellulases, and accessory and oxidative enzymes
  • Enzyme modeling and structural studies that improve understanding of enzyme functions, mechanisms, and structure-function relationships

Strain Development, Characterization and Application

Microbes are essential for both heterotrophic and autotrophic production of fuels and chemicals. Alcohols, lipids, organic acids and a wide variety of other organic compounds can be produced by microbial systems. Improvements in rate, titer, conversion efficiency, and yield are sought to overcome the scale and economic obstacles to achieving economically viable bio-based fuels and chemicals production. This track will emphasize recent research advances using bacteria, fungi, and algae to improve bio-based products options and production economics. Topics of particular interest include new microbe strain discovery, progress using genetic engineering and microbial evolution approaches to enhance strain performance, as well as testing of natural or constructed consortia for improved microbial bioconversion. The following lists non-exclusive topics of specific interest for this track:

  • Discovery and development of new and novel microbes for biofuels and chemicals production
  • Improved production of intracellular lipids in algae or oleaginous bacteria or fungi through strain and process engineering
  • Advances in secretion of fuels and chemicals products or intermediates by algae, bacteria or fungi
  • Microbe engineering for consolidated bioprocessing and alternative substrate utilization

Synthetic and Systems Biology

Advances in high-speed low-cost sequencing, gene fabrication, and genome editing make it feasible to ever more rapidly generate and characterize new microorganism and enzyme biocatalysts for improved bio-based fuels or chemicals production. Advances in and new approaches to designing and understanding these novel biological systems will be instrumental in creating optimal systems and conversion pathways. The following lists non-exclusive topics of specific interest for this track:

  • Metabolic pathway engineering and genome editing to develop microbial- or plant-based products
  • Computational methods for strain design and metabolic model reconstructions
  • Metabolic model validation methods such as metabolic flux analysis
  • Application of biodesign principles to create novel metabolic pathways or optimize existing metabolic pathways
  • High-throughput systems for rapid screening of function, expression and/or products

Design and Assessment of Integrated Bioprocesses, including Separations

The disparity in potential market sizes between large volume biofuels and smaller volume chemical products represents a critical challenge to greatly expanding the bio-based economy through integrated biorefineries producing both fuels and chemicals products. Processes for different bio-based products are limited in their ability to achieve scales of economy in production by the market size(s) of the product(s) being produced. Rigorous process integration and validation are needed to ensure new bioprocesses will be economically viable at commercial scale. Sessions in this track will focus on improvements or innovations in integrated bioprocesses, considering the full span of required process unit operations, i.e., from feedstock size-reduction and refining through pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, biological conversion, and product recovery, and also including any intra-process separations. Overall plant operations, technoeconomic analysis and optimization, and life cycle assessment are also of interest. The following lists non-exclusive topics of specific interest for this track:

  • Improvements in pilot, demonstration- and commercial-scale operation of integrated bio-based chemicals and/or fuels production, both technical performance characterization and improvement and economic assessment
  • Development of new or improved bioprocessing-related unit operations or on-line (real time) measurement of bioprocess performance
  • Integration and performance characterization and assessment of bioprocesses comprising multiple linked unit operations
  • Novel and improved reactor designs for more economically viable commercial-scale bio-based production
  • New or improved processes for separating or cleaning up intermediates and recovering products
  • Process designs, techno-economic assessments and life-cycle analyses of integrated bio-based production

Fuels, Chemicals, and Other Bio-based Products

A wide variety of bio-based chemicals and fuels can be produced from renewable feedstock-derived sugars, synthesis gases, or other sustainable carbon sources. Sessions in this track will highlight advances in the development of biological and combined or hybrid thermochemical-biological (or biological-thermochemical) routes to producing bio-based products from renewable feedstocks. Also or interest are: progress in producing bio-based intermediates suitable for upgrading in petroleum refineries; advances in developing new chemicals and fuels products from lignin; and valorization of other potential biorefining side streams or byproducts. The following lists non-exclusive topics of specific interest for this track:

  • Development of bio-based chemicals for large volume non-fuel applications, such as bioplastics, biopolymers and intermediates (i.e., that are feedstocks / precursors for other production processes)
  • Production of lower volume higher value bio-based specialty chemicals
  • Improvements in lignocellulosic fuel alcohol production (ethanol, butanol, longer chain alcohols, and beyond)
  • Advances in triglyceride-based biodiesel production, both primary fuel production and co-product production
  • Novel routes to producing bio-based liquid and gaseous fuels, including direct drop-in hydrocarbon replacements for gasoline, diesel and jet fuels
  • Techno-economic and life-cycle analyses of bio-based fuels and chemicals production, either standalone or in the context of production occurring in multi-product integrated bioerefineries