NSF EPSCoR: Powering the Kentucky Bioeconomy for a Sustainable Future: DeBolt Scope

Grants and Contracts Details


We propose a workflow that is highly iterative, multi-parametric and collaborative, whereby synthetic biology and pathway engineering activities are guided by deconstruction data and vice versa, with the goal of selecting and engineering feedstocks for cost-effective bioprocessing. Led by Dr. Seth DeBolt (UK, Horticulture), this project integrates research in chemical genetics, bioengineering, chemistry, catalysis, and chemical engineering, with statewide participation in biological discovery. Central to our scientific approach is the hypothesis that the development of commercially viable lignin extraction and utilization processes can be greatly accelerated by studying the deconstruction of lignin at the molecular level in concert with bioengineering. Plant biosynthetic processes will be examined in the context of Kentucky's natural biodiversity and variation, and manipulated both by chemical perturbation and genetic engineering to synthesize more tractable lignin polymers in the plant cell wall. Lignin polymorphs will be subjected to chemical and enzymatic degradation methods, and bulk processes will be studied in both scientific and economic contexts. Finally, we will engineer biomass with altered lignin components, e.g. syringyl and guaiacyl alcohol (S:G) ratio, to understand the chemistry of cellulose-lignin separations and to elucidate the most appealing chemical and biochemical oxidation routes to specific products via increased lignin reactivity. Joint research with the other (KY NSF EPSCoR award) Pillars will be prioritized and the KY EPSCoR funds will make it possible to amass science and engineering knowledge leading toward improved catalytic and biocatalytic industrial processes for the conversion of valuable chemicals such as the reactive binders in phenyl-formaldehyde resins, fine chemicals such as vanillin, polyelectrolytes, and activated carbon for battery components.
Effective start/end date8/1/157/31/19


  • National Science Foundation


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