New integrative sustainable system from C4 photosyntetic miscanthus to biological synthesis of valuable C4 compounds (BioC4)


Project abstract

Because of the finite nature of fossil fuel resources and the imminent climate change caused by their intensive use, the demand for renewable materials and bio-based chemicals for industrial applications, as well as for renewable energy, will steadily increase. Due to the inherent techno-economic challenges of biochemical compound commercialization, BioC4 will focus on developing technologies around ‘bio-isobutanol’, a powerful compound platform from which multiple products with high market potential can be launched. Isobutanol can be converted synthetically into many valuable building-block chemicals or directly used in fuel with multiple advantages. It can be converted easily to isobutylene or can replace n-butanol as industrial solvent.

BioC4 is a collaborative project between Lesaffre, INRA, GlobalYeast and Frankfurt and Hohenheim Universities. These private and public European partners will develop a production process with high economic impact in the area of food and non-food biomass production and transformation systems.


Methods and materials

The aim is to develop an industrial isobutanol production process. For that purpose, a strong isobutanol-producing yeast strain will be developed during the 3 years of the project. It will have the ability to ferment both hexose and pentose sugars under the harsh conditions present in lignocellulose hydrolysates. In parallel, promising Miscanthus genotypes with high saccharification potential will be identified and the most interesting ones will be analyzed once the process will be developed. Furthermore, a detailed concept for treatment and utilization of the fermentation residues (biogas) will be generated and evaluated. The environmental and agricultural impact of the newly developed value chain will be estimated and concepts for optimized integration of miscanthus production in cropping systems will be developed. These concepts will aim to maximize the environmental and agronomic benefits of the crop miscanthus. The environmental impact will be assessed by greenhouse gas emission and energy balance calculation. The results of the study will be used to identify weak-points and optimization potential of the developed value chain.

Project target group

The chemical industry is in high need of bio-based chemicals in order to replace petroleum derived chemicals. The transport sector urgently needs to replace petroleum derived fuels with biomass derived fuels. Both are major economic sectors and they will profit from a successful outcome of the present project. Additionally, the European agricultural sector can benefit from the outcomes of this project, since new business opportunities for lignocellulosic crops and agricultural wastes could be developed. This will help to develop new agricultural business models, help farmers to diversify their income and strengthen economy in remote areas.


Expected results

BioC4 will develop a transportation fuel with low greenhouse gas emission, without compatibility issue with existing engines. In addition, since isobutanol can be transformed in isobutene by a single step of dehydration, it can serve as a building block for bio-based raw materials.

BioC4 will also provide valuable information on miscanthus cultivation in order to promote this crop for biobased molecule production. However, the bioengineered tool developed during the project could consume glucose and xylose, so it will also be available and valid for the use of agricultural waste products and create a new output for their valorization. The BioC4 project will permit a better use of biomass waste from any plant source, and thus will help to decrease the environmental footprint of agriculture by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Research gaps

The main research gap is in yeast strain development. As the Isobutanol IP landscape is very strong, innovation will be the key to obtain a new isobutanol yeast strain with commercial-level performance.




M. Pascal Vandeckerckove     
Lesaffre International, France

Project partners

Consortium coordinator: Lesaffre International SARL

Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt


University of Hohenheim

INRA AgroImpact