Butanol production from food waste: a novel process for producing sustainable energy and reducing environmental pollution

Haibo Huang, Vijay Singh, Nasib Qureshi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Waste is currently a major problem in the world, both in the developing and the developed countries. Efficient utilization of food waste for fuel and chemical production can positively influence both the energy and environmental sustainability. This study investigated using food waste to produce acetone, butanol, and ethanol (ABE) by Clostridium beijerinckii P260. Results: In control fermentation, 40.5 g/L of glucose (initial glucose 56.7 g/L) was used to produce 14.2 g/L of ABE with a fermentation productivity and a yield of 0.22 g/L/h and 0.35 g/g, respectively. In a similar fermentation 81 g/L of food waste (containing equivalent glucose of 60.1 g/L) was used as substrate, and the culture produced 18.9 g/L ABE with a high ABE productivity of 0.46 g/L/h and a yield of 0.38 g/g. Fermentation of food waste at higher concentrations (129, 181 and 228 g/L) did not remarkably increase ABE production but resulted in high residual glucose due to the culture butanol inhibition. An integrated vacuum stripping system was designed and applied to recover butanol from the fermentation broth simultaneously to relieve the culture butanol inhibition, thereby allowing the fermentation of food waste at high concentrations. ABE fermentation integrated with vacuum stripping successfully recovered the ABE from the fermentation broth and controlled the ABE concentrations below 10 g/L during fermentation when 129 g/L food waste was used. The ABE productivity with vacuum fermentation was 0.49 g/L/h, which was 109 % higher than the control fermentation (glucose based). More importantly, ABE vacuum recovery and fermentation allowed near-complete utilization of the sugars (∼98 %) in the broth. Conclusions: In these studies it was demonstrated that food waste is a superior feedstock for producing butanol using Clostridium beijerinckii. Compared to costly glucose, ABE fermentation of food waste has several advantages including lower feedstock cost, higher productivity, and less residual sugars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number332
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Butanol
  • Energy
  • Fermentation
  • Food waste
  • Process integration
  • Vacuum stripping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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