Priya Jayachandran.

Graduate Student
University of California, Berkeley

B.S. Chemical Engineering, 2007
Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Office Location: 250 Calvin Hall
Office Telephone: 510-642-1053

Bioprospecting of High-Temperature Conversion of Lignocellulose to Ethanol

Biofuel production from the biological conversion of lignocellulosic materials has again resurfaced from the universal recognition that the world’s petroleum resources are finite. Plant biomass with cellulose as the chief component has been examined as a sustainable alternative source of energy and material in response to this global problem. Cellulose is considered the most renewable and abundant natural resource constituting the largest flow of material in the biosphere. Regardless of their ubiquity, cellulosic materials lack a consolidated process for substrate utilization and product formation. Using microorganisms such as thermophiles, cellulosic materials may overcome this impediment through the simultaneous production of cellulolytic enzymes, hydrolysis of biomass, and fermentation of resulting sugars to produce ethanol. This single step process will drastically reduce the costs of ethanol production.

In practice, we hope to isolate and characterize extracellular and periplasmic glycolytic enzymes from extremely thermophilic bacterial strains adapted for cellulose and hemicellulose degradation. We will also isolate novel extreme thermophiles that produce ethanol and/or butanol from enrichments of hot spring samples taken from Eastern Russia and the continental USA. A simultaneous saccharification and fermentation process for operation near the boiling point of ethanol will be developed in order to increase process efficiency, minimize contamination, and allow evaporative removal of the fuel product. Lastly, we hope to sequence thermophilic bacterial strains with high rates of lignocellulose digestion and express the cellulose and xylanase genes in recombinant host strains.