Reaction network flux analysis: Optimization-based evaluation of reaction pathways for biorenewables processing



Even though biomass is attracting increasing interest as a raw material in the chemical and the fuel industries, only few biobased production processes are yet established. At the same time a lot of new catalytic routes are proposed, but their potential in biorefinery applications is hard to predict. Reaction network flux analysis (RNFA) is introduced as a novel, rapid screening method which bridges the gap between chemo- or biocatalysis and process design by (1) systematically identifying and (2) subsequently analyzing and ranking the large number of alternative reaction pathways based on limited data. This optimization-based method helps to detect promising production routes as well as bottlenecks in possible pathways. The potential and the application of the RNFA methodology will be demonstrated by means of a case study for the production of the potential biofuel 3-methyl-tetrahydrofuran (3-MTHF) from the platform chemical itaconic acid (IA). © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 58: 1788–1801, 2012