PSI is Producing High-Density, Liquid, Tactical Fuels from Renewable Sources

Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) of Andover, Massachusetts, has been awarded a research contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center to develop efficient isomer selective biosynthesis of pinene from cellulosic feedstocks.

There is a need to find more efficient methods for producing high-density, liquid, tactical fuels for use in missile propulsion or as components to improve key performance characteristics of currently available jet and diesel fuels. Generation of such fuels from renewable sources including waste cellulose, grasses, waste agricultural material and forestry products will provide important national security benefits as compared with the use of raw petroleum products--a large fraction of which are imported. During Phase I research, PSI, in collaboration with a Massachusetts university, explored development of a consolidated bioprocess for bioconversion of cellulosic biomass to high purity alpha- or beta-pinene precursors for high-density, liquid tactical fuel. That work will be extended during Phase II efforts. During the base effort, PSI will pursue several genetic approaches to significantly increase beta-pinene production and export from the fungal mycelia, and will also pursue development of other key feedstocks including linalool and isopropanol for high-density, liquid hydrocarbon fuel production. In parallel, the university will develop efficient methods for solid-state fermentation. During the option period production of beta-pinene or isopropanol will be scaled up to produce several gallons of solvent.

Pinene is a monoterpene that is produced in a single step from geranyl pyrophosphate, the key precursor for isoprenoid and steroid biosynthesis. Terpenes and isoprenoids are key components of essential oils and are frequently used as additives for food and fragrances. In addition, modified pinenes may be used as fuel additives to improve low-temperature performance of diesel and jet fuels. These additives will increase in importance as biodiesel production increases since that fuel generally has higher gel temperatures than petroleum diesel. The strains and processes developed during the Phase I and Phase II programs will be excellent building blocks for industrial production of virtually any terpene or steroidal compound from cellulosic feedstocks. These compounds have broad applicability for high density missile and jet fuels, as well as for the civilian fuel market and for the fragrance and flavor industry.

For further information contact:

Dr. Anthony Ferrante
Physical Sciences Inc.
20 New England Business Center
Andover, MA 01810

Telephone: (978) 689-0003
Fax: (978) 689-3232