Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Chemical Engineering


David R Shonnard


Biofuels are an increasingly important component of worldwide energy supply. This research aims to understand the pathways and impacts of biofuels production, and to improve these processes to make them more efficient. In Chapter 2, a life cycle assessment (LCA) is presented for cellulosic ethanol production from five potential feedstocks of regional importance to the upper Midwest - hybrid poplar, hybrid willow, switchgrass, diverse prairie grasses, and logging residues - according to the requirements of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Direct land use change emissions are included for the conversion of abandoned agricultural land to feedstock production, and computer models of the conversion process are used in order to determine the effect of varying biomass composition on overall life cycle impacts. All scenarios analyzed here result in greater than 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum gasoline. Land use change effects were found to contribute significantly to the overall emissions for the first 20 years after plantation establishment. Chapter 3 is an investigation of the effects of biomass mixtures on overall sugar recovery from the combined processes of dilute acid pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis. Biomass mixtures studied were aspen, a hardwood species well suited to biochemical processing; balsam, a high-lignin softwood species, and switchgrass, an herbaceous energy crop with high ash content. A matrix of three different dilute acid pretreatment severities and three different enzyme loading levels was used to characterize interactions between pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis. Maximum glucose yield for any species was 70% oftheoretical for switchgrass, and maximum xylose yield was 99.7% of theoretical for aspen. Supplemental β-glucosidase increased glucose yield from enzymatic hydrolysis by an average of 15%, and total sugar recoveries for mixtures could be predicted to within 4% by linear interpolation of the pure species results. Chapter 4 is an evaluation of the potential for producing Trichoderma reesei cellulose hydrolases in the Kluyveromyces lactis yeast expression system. The exoglucanases Cel6A and Cel7A, and the endoglucanase Cel7B were inserted separately into the K. lactis and the enzymes were analyzed for activity on various substrates. Recombinant Cel7B was found to be active on carboxymethyl cellulose and Avicel powdered cellulose substrates. Recombinant Cel6A was also found to be active on Avicel. Recombinant Cel7A was produced, but no enzymatic activity was detected on any substrate. Chapter 5 presents a new method for enzyme improvement studies using enzyme co-expression and yeast growth rate measurements as a potential high-throughput expression and screening system in K. lactis yeast. Two different K. lactis strains were evaluated for their usefulness in growth screening studies, one wild-type strain and one strain which has had the main galactose metabolic pathway disabled. Sequential transformation and co-expression of the exoglucanase Cel6A and endoglucanase Cel7B was performed, and improved hydrolysis rates on Avicel were detectable in the cell culture supernatant. Future work should focus on hydrolysis of natural substrates, developing the growth screening method, and utilizing the K. lactis expression system for directed evolution of enzymes.