Impact of Furfural on Rapid Ethanol Production Using a Membrane Bioreactor
Journal article, 2013

A membrane bioreactor was developed to counteract the inhibition effect of furfural in ethanol production. Furfural, a major inhibitor in lignocellulosic hydrolyzates, is a highly toxic substance which is formed from pentose sugars released during the acidic degradation of lignocellulosic materials. Continuous cultivations with complete cell retention were performed at a high dilution rate of 0.5 h(-1). Furfural was added directly into the bioreactor by pulse injection or by addition into the feed medium to obtain furfural concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 21.8 g L-1. At all pulse injections of furfural, the yeast was able to convert the furfural very rapidly by in situ detoxification. When injecting 21.8 g L-1 furfural to the cultivation, the yeast converted it by a specific conversion rate of 0.35 g g(-1) h(-1). At high cell density, Saccharomyces cerevisiae could tolerate very high furfural levels without major changes in the ethanol production. During the continuous cultures when up to 17.0 g L-1 furfural was added to the inlet medium, the yeast successfully produced ethanol, whereas an increase of furfural to 18.6 and 20.6 g L-1 resulted in a rapidly decreasing ethanol production and accumulation of sugars in the permeate. This study show that continuous ethanol fermentations by total cell retention in a membrane bioreactor has a high furfural tolerance and can conduct rapid in situ detoxification of medium containing high furfural concentrations.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

membrane bioreactor

cross-flow filtration

furfural conversion kinetics



Päivi Ylitervo

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Industrial biotechnology

Carl Johan Franzén

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Industrial biotechnology

Mohammad Taherzadeh Esfahani

University of Borås


1996-1073 (ISSN)

Vol. 6 3 1604-1617

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Industrial Biotechnology

Chemical Sciences

Areas of Advance


Life Science Engineering (2010-2018)



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3/8/2018 9