The Biorefinery Centre, headed by Professor Keith Waldron, aims to develop approaches to maximise the exploitation of agri-food chain biomass through the disassembly of plant structures using physical, biochemical and chemical routes.  Our current research interests include development of fine and platform chemicals and fuels from agri-food chain waste biomass, therefore avoiding a conflict with food production.

The Biorefinery Centre is closely allied with the National Collection of Yeast Cultures – a unique collection of over 4000 yeast strains, also located at the Institute of Food Research (IFR).  Please click on the sections below for further information on our facilities or contact us for further information.

Biomass development

foodwasteLarge volumes of biological waste are produced in various commercial settings, making them ideal targets for exploitation. However, most biological waste streams have never been bred to allow the cost-effective extraction of high value products. Selecting biomass varieties that produce higher co-product yields would be an excellent way of improving whole-crop value.

Therefore, a number of projects are currently underway, aimed at determining the key genetic bottlenecks to biomass valorisation. At The Biorefinery Centre, we have the capacity to analyse feedstocks of varying genotypes at a range of scales. This allows us to identify the influence that genotypic variations may have on process efficiencies – providing targets for biomass improvement at the beginning of the supply chain.

Chemical analysis

FPLCAnalytical Expertise

  • Sugar analysis (monosaccharides by GC-FID, derivatisation to alditol acetates)
  • Uronic Acid analysis (uV/vis platereader assay against standards)
  • Phenolic Acid analysis (by HPLC-DAD)
  • Glucose analysis (GOPOD test kit MEGAZYME)
  • Xylose analysis (test kit by MEGAZYME)
  • Starch analysis (test kit by MEGAZYME)
  • Carbohydrate analysis (HPLC-RI, can include MeOH/EtOH analysis)
  • Fermentation Inhibitors/Organic  acids analysis (HPLC-RI-DAD, can include MeOH/EtOH analysis)
  • Molecular Weight Profiling of Polysaccharides/Oligosaccharides (HPLC-SEC-RI)
  • Alcohol analysis (GC-FID)
  • Lignin analysis (Klason, gravimetric assay)
  • Soluble Polysaccharide/Oligosaccharide Bulk Fractionation – (FPLC and other methods)
  • FT-IR (ATR) spectroscopy and microscopy
  • Raman spectroscopy

Access to …

  • Protein by Nitrogen Assay
  • Lipid Composition Profile (derivatisation to Fatty Acid Methyl Esters – FAME)
  • Wax analysis (GC-FID, long chain esters)
  • Protein Composition Profile (by amino acid analysis)
  • GC-MS
  • LC-MS
  • MALDI-TOF (large biomolecules)
  • NMR
  • Microscopy – Confocal, fluorescence, SEM
  • AFM

High-throughput screening of biomass transformation

robotHigh-throughput screening is of particular importance in biorefining due to the multitude of permutations in effectively realising useful outputs. The Biorefinery Centre boasts expertise in this area with the automation of a number of standard processes:

  • Pretreatment
  • Enzymolysis / Saccharification
  • Yeast Fermentation
    • Separate Hydrolysis and Fermentation
    • Simultaneous Saccharification and Fermentation

Utilising liquid handling robotics we are able to handle multiple samples in a 96 well plate format. Yeast fermentation screening is possible on both liquid and solid substrates thanks to innovative methodologies pioneered in the Biorefinery Centre. Furthermore the National Collection of Yeast Cultures is now available in 96 well format for high-throughput screening of your own substrate.

Metabolomics - fine chemicals

Metabolic analysis, available at the Biorefinery Centre allows for the identification and discovery of platform and fine chemicals from fermentation. LC-MS, GC-MS and NMR analyses permit a large array of these chemicals to be found quickly and repeatably. As with our other facilities we are able to perform high-throughput screening on large sample sets and indeed the National Collection of Yeast Cultures can provide strain sets for just such a purpose.