Butanol is produced commercially from fossil fuels. The most common process starts with propene (propylene), which is run through a hydroformylation reaction to form butyraldehyde, which is then reduced with hydrogen to 1-butanol and/or 2-butanol. Tert-butanol is derived from isobutane as a co-product of propylene oxide production. Butanol can also be produced by fermentation of biomass by bacteria.
It is primarily used as a solvent, as an intermediate in chemical synthesis, and as a fuel. It is sometimes also called biobutanol when produced biologically.
ABE (acetone, butanol, ethanol) fermentation has a great industrial past but has been outcompeted by the petrochemical industry. Due to new developments in biotechnology, there has been renewed interest in fermentative production of butanol, a platform chemical and alternative biofuel. To date, high substrate costs and low volumetric productivity remain significant bottlenecks that preclude large-scale application of ABE fermentation. By using our combined experience in biomass pretreatment, fermentation, separation technology and energy system design, we are developing new concepts for conversion of biomass. The ultimate goal is to design a new, efficient and economically viable bioprocess for the conversion of low-cost cellulosic feedstocks into products such as Acetone, Butanol and Ethanol.