BackgroundIn an effort to ensure future energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create domestic jobs, the US has invested in technologies to develop sustainable biofuels and bioproducts from renewable carbon sources such as lignocellulosic biomass. Bio-derived jet fuel is of particular interest as aviation is less amenable to electrification compared to other modes of transportation and synthetic biology provides the ability to tailor fuel properties to enhance performance. Specific energy and energy density are important properties in determining the attractiveness of potential bio-derived jet fuels. For example, increased energy content can give the industry options such as longer range, higher load or reduced takeoff weight. Energy-dense sesquiterpenes have been identified as potential next-generation jet fuels that can be renewably produced from lignocellulosic biomass.
ResultsWe developed a biomass deconstruction and conversion process that enabled the production of two tricyclic sesquiterpenes, epi-isozizaene and prespatane, from the woody biomass poplar using the versatile basidiomycete Rhodosporidium toruloides. We demonstrated terpene production at both bench and bioreactor scales, with prespatane titers reaching 1173.6 mg/L when grown in poplar hydrolysate in a 2 L bioreactor. Additionally, we examined the theoretical fuel properties of prespatane and epi-isozizaene in their hydrogenated states as blending options for jet fuel, and compared them to aviation fuel, Jet A.
ConclusionOur findings indicate that prespatane and epi-isozizaene in their hydrogenated states would be attractive blending options in Jet A or other lower density renewable jet fuels as they would improve viscosity and increase their energy density. Saturated epi-isozizaene and saturated prespatane have energy densities that are 16.6 and 18.8% higher than Jet A, respectively. These results highlight the potential of R. toruloides as a production host for the sustainable and scalable production of bio-derived jet fuel blends, and this is the first report of prespatane as an alternative jet fuel.
SUBMITTER: Geiselman GM