A roadmap for the synthesis of separation networks for the recovery of bio-based chemicals: Matching biological and process feasibility

Kirti M. Yenkie, Wen Zhao Wu, Ryan L. Clark, Brian F. Pfleger, Thatcher W. Root, Christos T. Maravelias

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Microbial conversion of renewable feedstocks to high-value chemicals is an attractive alternative to current petrochemical processes because it offers the potential to reduce net CO2 emissions and integrate with bioremediation objectives. Microbes have been genetically engineered to produce a growing number of high-value chemicals in sufficient titer, rate, and yield from renewable feedstocks. However, high-yield bioconversion is only one aspect of an economically viable process. Separation of biologically synthesized chemicals from process streams is a major challenge that can contribute to > 70% of the total production costs. Thus, process feasibility is dependent upon the efficient selection of separation technologies. This selection is dependent on upstream processing or biological parameters, such as microbial species, product titer and yield, and localization. Our goal is to present a roadmap for selection of appropriate technologies and generation of separation schemes for efficient recovery of bio-based chemicals by utilizing information from upstream processing, separation science and commercial requirements. To achieve this, we use a separation system comprising of three stages: (I) cell and product isolation, (II) product concentration, and (III) product purification and refinement. In each stage, we review the technology alternatives available for different tasks in terms of separation principles, important operating conditions, performance parameters, advantages and disadvantages. We generate separation schemes based on product localization and its solubility in water, the two most distinguishing properties. Subsequently, we present ideas for simplification of these schemes based on additional properties, such as physical state, density, volatility, and intended use. This simplification selectively narrows down the technology options and can be used for systematic process synthesis and optimal recovery of bio-based chemicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1362-1383
Number of pages22
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology


  • Microbial cultivation
  • Physical property
  • Process synthesis
  • Product localization
  • Solubility
  • Stage-wise separation
  • Technology selection


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