Carbon-negative production of acetone and isopropanol by gas fermentation at industrial pilot scale

Fungmin Eric Liew, Robert Nogle, Tanus Abdalla, Blake J. Rasor, Christina Canter, Rasmus O. Jensen, Lan Wang, Jonathan Strutz, Payal Chirania, Sashini De Tissera, Alexander P. Mueller, Zhenhua Ruan, Allan Gao, Loan Tran, Nancy L. Engle, Jason C. Bromley, James Daniell, Robert Conrado, Timothy J. Tschaplinski, Richard J. GiannoneRobert L. Hettich, Ashty S. Karim, Séan D. Simpson, Steven D. Brown, Ching Leang*, Michael C. Jewett*, Michael Köpke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Many industrial chemicals that are produced from fossil resources could be manufactured more sustainably through fermentation. Here we describe the development of a carbon-negative fermentation route to producing the industrially important chemicals acetone and isopropanol from abundant, low-cost waste gas feedstocks, such as industrial emissions and syngas. Using a combinatorial pathway library approach, we first mined a historical industrial strain collection for superior enzymes that we used to engineer the autotrophic acetogen Clostridium autoethanogenum. Next, we used omics analysis, kinetic modeling and cell-free prototyping to optimize flux. Finally, we scaled-up our optimized strains for continuous production at rates of up to ~3 g/L/h and ~90% selectivity. Life cycle analysis confirmed a negative carbon footprint for the products. Unlike traditional production processes, which result in release of greenhouse gases, our process fixes carbon. These results show that engineered acetogens enable sustainable, high-efficiency, high-selectivity chemicals production. We expect that our approach can be readily adapted to a wide range of commodity chemicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-344
Number of pages10
JournalNature biotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering


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