Integrated permeate channel (IPC) flat sheet membranes were examined for use as a reverse membrane bioreactor (rMBR) for lignocellulosic ethanol production. The fermenting organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (T0936), a genetically-modified strain with the ability to ferment xylose, was used inside the rMBR. The rMBR was evaluated for simultaneous glucose and xylose utilization as well as in situ detoxification of furfural and hydroxylmethyl furfural (HMF). The synthetic medium was investigated, after which the pretreated wheat straw was used as a xylose-rich lignocellulosic substrate. The IPC membrane panels were successfully used as the rMBR during the batch fermentations, which lasted for up to eight days without fouling. With the rMBR, complete glucose and xylose utilization, resulting in 86% of the theoretical ethanol yield, was observed with the synthetic medium. Its application with the pretreated wheat straw resulted in complete glucose consumption and 87% xylose utilization; a final ethanol concentration of 30.3 g/L was obtained, which corresponds to 83% of the theoretical yield. Moreover, complete in situ detoxification of furfural and HMF was obtained within 36 h and 60 h, respectively, with the rMBR. The use of the rMBR is a promising technology for large-scale lignocellulosic ethanol production, since it facilitates the co-utilization of glucose and xylose; moreover, the technology also allows the reuse of the yeast for several batches.
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