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Working Paper

Date of this Version



We present a process for the production of isoprene via the fermentation of glucose. Based on our current specifications, we conclude that the use of recombinant E.coli for the fermentation of glucose is a novel yet unprofitable venture. Our current design entails the continuous production of isoprene using 3 pre-seed, 3 seed, and 5 production fermenters each with a production fermentation time of 72 hours. Our scheduling of the fermenters allowed us to produce isoprene continuously at a steady rate, and the liquid by-products of the fermentation were removed and sterilized at the end of each batch. Isoprene was mainly present in the vapor phase during the fermentation and was purified using a combination of an absorption using ISOPAR v, stripping with steam, and separation using a flash vessel.

It was desired that the fermentation was operated near the minimum oxygen concentration (MOC) as such conditions allowed for the highest production rate of isoprene based on the preliminary studies done by Chotani in their patent. The fermentation was operated at 34 °C and 1.7 bar with glucose and oxygen as the reactants producing isoprene, carbon dioxide, and water as the products.

The results of our design suggest that the price of isoprene is too low when compared to the costs of raw materials, making this process economically unfeasible under present market conditions. We project that $4.08 worth of glucose will be need for each pound of isoprene which currently goes for $0.79/lb. Additionally, the metabolic pathway of isoprene is highly exothermic, requiring large utility requirements in terms of chilled water to remove heat from the fermenters. We are unsure of impacts of rapidly changing the temperature of E.Coli on production as there is no data regarding the robustness of the strain. Overall, the fixed capitals costs incurred make this process even more unappealing for further consideration.



Date Posted: 03 May 2016