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Biotechnology for Biofuels
Vol. 8, 2015, Pages: 1–6

High concentrations of dried sorghum stalks as a biomass feedstock for single cell oil production by Rhodosporidium toruloides

Leonidas Matsakas, Nemailla Bonturi, Everson Alves Miranda, Ulrika Rova and Paul Christakopoulos

Biochemical Process Engineering, Division of Chemical Engineering, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Luleň University of Technology, SE-971 87 Luleň, Sweden.



Environmental crisis and concerns for energy security have made the research for renewable fuels that will substitute the usage of fossil fuels an important priority. Biodiesel is a potential substitute for petroleum, but its feasibility is hindered by the utilization of edible vegetable oil as raw material, which is responsible for a large fraction of the production cost and fosters the food versus fuel competition. Microbial oils are an interesting alternative as they do not compete with food production, and low cost renewable materials could serve as raw materials during cultivation of microorganisms. Sweet sorghum is an excellent candidate as substrate for microbial oil production, as it possesses high photosynthetic activity yielding high amounts of soluble and insoluble carbohydrates, and does not require high fertilization and irrigation rates.


Initially the ability of sweet sorghum to fully support yeast growth, both as a carbon and nitrogen source was evaluated. It was found that addition of an external nitrogen source had a negative impact on single cell oil (SCO) production yields, which has a positive effect on the process economics. Subsequently the effect of the presence of a distinct saccharification step on SCO was examined. The presence of an enzymatic saccharification step prior to SCO production improved the production of SCO, especially in high solid concentrations. Removal of solids was also investigated and its positive effect on SCO production was also demonstrated. When juice from 20% w/w enzymatically liquefied sweet sorghum was used as the raw material, SCO production was 13.77 g/L. To the best of our knowledge this is one of the highest SCO titers reported in the literature when renewable raw materials were utilized.


The use of sweet sorghum at high solid concentrations as a feedstock for the efficient production of SCO by Rhodosporidium toruloides was demonstrated. Moreover, addition of enzymes not only led to liquefaction of sweet sorghum and permitted liquid fermentation, but also enhanced lipid production by 85.1% and 15.9% when dried stalks or stalk juice was used, respectively.

Keywords: Single cell oil; Rhodosporidium toruloides; Sweet sorghum; Enzymatic saccharification; Biodiesel.

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