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Our Process

Feedstock Flexibility

Feedstock flexibility enables LS9 processes to access the most cost competitive feedstocks and diverse geographies. The LS9 microbial catalysts naturally and efficiently convert the C5 and C6 sugars derived from abundant carbohydrates and biomass. This flexibility distinguishes the LS9 technology from many, which require significant genetic engineering or unconventional hosts to achieve this capability.

Simple, Cost-Effective, Scalable Processes

LS9 Products Rise to the Top

Simple cost-effective processes

All unit operations in a commercial process cost capital and result in yield loss. Thus, the simpler the process the more cost effective it can be. LS9 microbial catalysts carryout all chemical conversions in a single step fermentation and produce an immiscible product that is naturally secreted from the cell where it forms a separate remarkably pure organic phase. Oil floats, and so do LS9 products. Simple settling or centrifugation is sufficient to recover and isolate the final product from the heavier fermentation medium and solid cellular catalysts. No distillation is required. As this process flow is the same for most LS9 products, different catalysts enable new products to be produced from the same capital investments and unit operations.

Scalable processes

LS9 technology is inherently scalable to meet the enormous demands of the fuels and chemicals industries. This scalability lies in the design of our catalysts and the simplicity of our processes. LS9 leverages the industrial microorganism with the best track record for successful large scale commercial production of engineered products and ability to use abundant, cost effective feedstocks. The LS9 platform process requires simple, standard fermentation and centrifugation unit operations that have a solid track record for commercial scalability. Since August 2008, LS9 has successfully run its pilot plant with continued gain in performance and scale up of lab scale improvements. The technology is scheduled for commercial demonstration in 2011. 

LS9 process

Figure 1. Image taken under a microscope showing LS9’s microbial catalysts (the small black rods) secreting diesel fuel which then naturally separates from the aqueous media (left). A fermentation vessel producing diesel left to settle accumulates the diesel fuel on the surface from which it is easily recoverable.

Microbes Designed for Performance: Synthetic Biology

LS9 is continually developing new and more cost effective catalysts to support its product processes. To this end, LS9 has developed an integrated synthetic biology platform for the rapid design, construction, and evaluation of new, highly engineered, biological catalysts. Leveraging custom computational design tools in combination with automated DNA synthesis, strain construction, and evaluation, LS9 scientists have developed a robust workflow for the rapid engineering of enzymes, metabolic pathways, and microorganisms. This platform allows LS9 scientists and engineers to quickly leverage process data and catalyst performance data and translate it into improved catalysts that enable more cost effective production economics.

LS9 process

Figure 2. Watchmaker™ automated biological engineering. LS9 has developed an integrated automated workflow for the computational design and automated construction and evaluation of its whole cell biological catalysts.

LS9 continues to be recognized by third parties for its innovations. These include high profile publications in journals such as Nature and Science. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency Honored LS9 with the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for the ability of its technology platform to commercially produce diverse products with dramatically improved environmental impact.

Key Aspects of LS9 Technology

Since inception, LS9 developed its technology platform to provide broad industrial benefits including efficient conversion, product diversity and selectivity, simple cost-competitive processes, feedstock flexibility, and scalability.

Efficient Conversion

Process yield and productivities drive product economics, with feedstock being the dominant contributor to operating expense and productivity directly affecting capital expense. LS9 employs microbial fatty acid metabolism because it supports the highest yields and rates for hydrocarbon biosynthesis. Within nature, fatty acid biosynthesis is responsible for cell structure and energy storage. Accordingly, it has evolved to support high yields and productivities, achieving commercial productivities and energetic efficiency. This highly efficient pathway when genetically linked to product pathways provide unique catalysts that enable simple, cost-effective processes.

LS9 process

Figure 3. Molecular composition of fatty acids. This is an example of a saturated fatty acid containing 18 carbon atoms and no double bonds, but many different structures are supported by LS9’s technology platform.

Control of Molecular Structure Provides Product Performance and Optionality

LS9 technology uniquely leverages the selectivity of its proprietary biological catalysis to provide control of product structure and performance. This combines the technology advantages of both targeted product composition with broad product optionality.  LS9 specifically tailors the carbon chain length, branching, saturation, and chemical functionality of each product. This level of selectivity is unique in the field, and differentiates LS9 from its competitors. Imagine designing a catalyst to produce a desired compound, of predetermined structure, and purity in a single step conversion, then using the same production equipment, introducing a different LS9 catalysts to produce a different product. That is the LS9 advantage.

LS9 process

Figure 4. LS9 technology platform allows precise genetic control of product structure. Through the control of chain length, saturation, branching and chemical functionality, precisely designed compounds for use as drop-in or differentiated products are produced. (Dotted lines show structural optionality. R= alkane, alkene, alcohol, ester, acid, etc.)

 

LS9 process

Figure 5. The LS9 technology platform enables a spectrum of products to be created—including alkanes, alcohols, fatty acids, esters, and olefins—using the same core technology.

LS9's Innovations

LS9 continues to be recognized by third parties for its innovations.  These include high profile publications in journals such as Nature and Science. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency Honored LS9 with the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for the ability of its technology platform to commercially produce diverse products with dramatically improved environmental impact.