New approaches to the control of contamination in biofuel ethanol fermentations

  • Christopher Spencer

Student thesis: Phd


The production of biofuels and in particular bioethanol has increased rapidly since the early 1990's. The advantages of biofuels include reduced CO2 production, a decrease in fuel importation for many nations (notably the US and Brazil), and comparatively simple blending with fossil fuels.The production of basic fuel ethanol (1st generation) involves the use of an energy crop feedstock (corn in US and sugar cane in Brazil). The feedstock is processed via simple mechanical methods to release the simple carbohydrates, mixed with water and fermented anaerobically via S. cerevisiae yeast into ethanol and CO2. Due to the low market value of fuel ethanol, profit margins are restrictive, and as a result sterilisation and aseptic techniques are not economically viable, and contamination by environmental organisms is commonplace.The current system of biocontrol involves the addition of antibiotics, primarily penicillin and virginiamycin, to the fermentation. While these antibiotics are broad spectrum and highly effective in reducing the impact of contamination, the negative environmental impacts of antibiotic usage are well known. In order to reduce the impact of contamination and reduce reliance on antibiotics an alternative system of biocontrol is required.In this thesis various biocontrol agents are assessed, including bacteriophage, hop acids, chitosan, onion oil extract, copper and silver ions. The effect of these agents on the growth of various contaminant bacteria and a strain of S. cerevisiae is assessed and fermentations are carried out under sterile and controlled contaminated conditions to generate data on the effect of the contaminant and the various methods of biocontrol.Other possibilities investigated include the insertion of plasmids containing heat shock proteins into S. cerevisiae to enhance thermo-tolerance.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNicholas Turner (Supervisor)


  • Bacteriophage
  • Biofuel
  • Ethanol
  • Contamination
  • Fermentation
  • S. cerevisiae

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