The 40 Hottest Technologies of 2018 – as voting gets underway, the nominees in depth

All through this month, Digest subscribers have been voting on the 40 Hottest Transformative Technologies in the Advanced Bioeconomy. 

While the Hot 50 concentrates on organizations — this set of rankings could include a complete process, a component, subprocess, a metabolic pathway, a computational system, a sensor, a control, a high-performing organism, a protective technology, or an application. In short, any technology that contributes to the advanced bioeconomy.

Let’s look in-depth at some of the nominees this year.

Advances in Metabolic Engineering of Zymomonas mobilis for 2,3-Butanediol Production for Bio-Based Fuels and Chemicals

What does it do, how does it work, who is it aimed at?

NREL researchers have successfully modified a world-class cellulosic ethanol fermentation organism, Zymomonas mobilis, to produce 2,3-butanediol (BDO) at high titer and yield in the absence of ethanol.  BDO is a useful intermediate from sugar fermentation and can then be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuel precursors and valuable chemical co-products from six- and five-carbon cellulosic sugars. BDO is not only a potential bulk chemical building block molecule, but also can be deoxydehydrated to butenes, which can be oligomerized in high yields to gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The novel elimination of ethanol production by Zymomonas mobilis changes the landscape of this technology, permitting a simplified downstream product separation process which greatly impacts the overall process cost reduction goals.

Competitively, what gives this technology an edge?

This technology breakthrough represents a simplified process configuration with wide-ranging flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Techno-economic modeling performed by NREL indicates a strong potential to economically produce diesel- and jet fuel-range molecules, while diverting a portion of the BDO intermediate to a wide range of large-market co-product applications including solvents, polymers, and chemical feedstocks. Producing bioproducts, including biobased chemicals, alongside biofuels will bring down the price per gallon, allowing biofuels to be price-competitive.

What stage of development is this technology at right now?

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