Aims: Developing an innovative process for ethanol fermentation from Jerusalem artichoke tubers under very high gravity (VHG) conditions.
Methods and Results: A consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) strategy that integrated inulinase production, saccharification of inulin contained in Jerusalem artichoke tubers and ethanol production from sugars released from inulin by the enzyme was developed with the inulinase-producing yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus Y179 and fed-batch operation. The impact of inoculum age, aeration, the supplementation of pectinase and nutrients on the ethanol fermentation performance of the CBP system was studied. Although inulinase activities increased with the extension of the seed incubation time, its contribution to ethanol production was negligible because vigorously growing yeast cells harvested earlier carried out ethanol fermentation more efficiently. Thus, the overnight incubation that has been practised in ethanol production from starch-based feedstocks is recommended. Aeration facilitated the fermentation process, but compromised ethanol yield because of the negative Crabtree effect of the species, and increases the risk of contamination under industrial conditions. Therefore, nonaeration conditions are preferred for the CBP system. Pectinase supplementation reduced viscosity of the fermentation broth and improved ethanol production performance, particularly under high gravity conditions, but the enzyme cost should be carefully balanced. Medium optimization was performed, and ethanol concentration as high as 94·2 g l−1 was achieved when 0·15 g l−1 K2HPO4 was supplemented, which presents a significant progress in ethanol production from Jerusalem artichoke tubers.
Conclusions: A CBP system using K. marxianus is suitable for efficient ethanol production from Jerusalem artichoke tubers under VHG conditions.
Significance and Impact of the Study: Jerusalem artichoke tubers are an alternative to grain-based feedstocks for ethanol production. The high ethanol concentration achieved using K. marxianus with the CBP system not only saves energy consumption for ethanol distillation, but also significantly reduces the amount of waste distillage discharged from the distillation system.