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DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences, Mumbai
The DBT-ICT (Institute of Chemical Technology) Centre for Energy Biosciences (CEB) has completed five years in December 2012 and entered into second phase with full support from DBT for another 5 years. Its overall objectives are to develop:
  • a cost effective technology for bio-ethanol production from any given biomass,
  • a bio-refinery approach for selected biomass and
  • other biofuel technologies such as bio-diesel, bio-hydrogen and bio-methane.
The research at the Centre can be technically divided into six major areas:
  • Synthetic biology
  • Fermentation technologies
  • Séparation technologies
  • Enzyme technology
  • Algal biotechnology and
  • Biofuels
Major Achievements
Technology for lignocellulosic sugars, ethanol and biochemicals
This centre has developed an economically viable and scalable technology for cellulosic ethanol from all types of agricultural residues and energy crops.
The ICT technology for cellulosic ethanol has been used to design a 10 tonnes biomass per day processing plant to convert rice, wheat straw; bagasse and many other varieties of biomass into sugars and lignin, and onto ethanol for use as fuel or chemical intermediate.
The designed pilot plant is under expansion at industry site at Kashipur, Uttarakhand with suport from Department of Biotechnology is under operation.
The scope of the technology is beng further expanded at the Centre to design technologies to produce several other products like butanol, lactic acid, xylitol etc., as co-products alongside biofuels.
Several biorefinery concepts for co-production of biofules and biochemicals have been developed at the Centre and will be translated to demonstration plants in 2013-14.
Algal biotechnology
A state-of-the-art laboratory for algal biotechnology has been set up at the Centre complete with basic infrastructure with a sunlit environmental chamber, 1,000 ltrs and 5,000 ltrs Raceway Ponds with novel designs (1m in depth) as well as set of 10 ltrs controlled photobioreactors, all equipped with microprocessor-based SCADA controlled systems.
Many algal, including cyanobacterial species, have been screened for their real-time photosynthetic efficiencies using Pulse Amplitude Modulator Fluorimeter (PAM). Promising candidates are being studied for improvement in biomass and/or oil productivity.
Capability in the areas of genetic modification of selected algal strains useful for biofuel purpose (other than model organism Chlamydomonas) has been developed.
Fermentation technology
High cell density and immobilised cell systems were implemented for several fold higher rates of fermentation of sugars to alcohols and acids without impairing product yields.
Metabolic flux analysis coupled with metabolic engineering has been applied to several fermentation systems aimed at production of primary as well as secondary metabolites.
Enzyme technology
A number of viable technologies have been developed aimed at adding value to agricultural produce of the country. Scalable and economical enzymatic processes have been developed for
  • Continuous hydrolysis and interesterification and transesterification of fatty oils using indigenously developed highly stable enzyme formulations,
  • Recovery of protein & other value addded products from agriculture processing wastes like oil seed meal and grain bran.

Synthetic and molecular biology and protein engineering
Significant amount of work has been commenced in this important area with several potential drop-in molecules like pentanol, terpenes and higher alkanes being targeted for bioproduction in collaboration with advanced laboratories like Joint BioEnergy Institute, USA and University of Nottingham, UK.
Separation technologies
A preparative scale Simulated Moving Bed Chromatography system was installed for continuous production of minor sugars like arabinose from xylose streams and for production of oligosaccharides like cellobiose and cellotriose.
Novel membrane technologies have been developed for water and catalysts recycles as important components of the DBT-ICT Biofuel/Biochemical Technology.