Abstract by Charles Sherrill
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Bacterial Pretreatment for Anaerobic Digestion
Anaerobic digestion is a process that converts biowaste into methane gas and other useable chemicals. Current knowledge shows that this process is effective for many different sources of biowaste, however the process is less effective at converting plant mass into useable fuel and chemicals because of the high concentration of lignin and cellulose in these substrates. We use the themophilic bacteria Caldicellulosiruptor bescii (C. bescii) in a pretreatment process that enhances the digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass. Once pretreated, the digestibility of lignocellulosic substrates using common anaerobic digestion can exceed 85%. We have applied this method to giant king grass and have used isothermal biomicrocalorimetry to help us gain thermodynamic understanding of the process. We have found that the biogas yield from the anaerobic digestion of giant king grass improves significantly after pretreatment by C. bescii.