Industrially Relevant Fermentations

Authored by: Thaddeus C. Ezeji , Nasib Qureshi , Hans P. Blaschek

Handbook on Clostridia

Print publication date:  March  2005
Online publication date:  March  2005

Print ISBN: 9780849316180
eBook ISBN: 9780203489819
Adobe ISBN:


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Acetone-butanol (AB) fermentation has a long history as an industrially significant fermentation. The original observation that bacteria produce butanol was made by Pasteur in 1861. Interest in commercializing the process came about in 1909 in England, primarily as a means to obtain butadiene as a raw material for the production of synthetic rubber. In 1912, the father of the AB fermentation process, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, studied the fermentation and isolated a bacterium called Clostridium acetobutylicum, which was able to ferment starchy grains to acetone, butanol, and ethanol. In 1915, a patent was issued to Dr. Weizmann for the process, which was subsequently transferred to Canada in 1916. In 1918, a butanol-acetone plant was built in Terre Haute, Indiana. Following World War I, Dupont developed lacquers for the automobile industry that required butyl acetate as a solvent. To supply butanol for conversion to butyl acetate, the acetone-butanol unit in Terre Haute was operated by the Commercial Solvents Corporation. Following expiration of the patent in 1936, AB plants were built throughout the U.S., and from 1916 to the late 1930s, the AB fermentation process was the major process for producing butanol. There were large facilities in the Midwestern U.S., including a facility in Peoria, Illinois, which had ninety-six 50,000 gallon fermentors.

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