Fermentative production of lactic acid from biomass: an overview on process developments and future perspectives

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The concept of utilizing excess biomass or wastes from agricultural and agro-industrial residues to produce energy, feeds or foods, and other useful products is not necessarily new. Recently, fermentation of biomass has gained considerable attention due to the forthcoming scarcity of fossil fuels and also due to the necessity of increasing world food and feed supplies. A cost-effective viable process for lactic acid production has to be developed for which several attempts have been initiated. Fermentation techniques result in the production of either D (-) or L (+) lactic acid, or a racemic mixture of both, depending on the type of organism used. The interest in the fermentative production of lactic acid has increased due to the prospects of environmental friendliness and of using renewable resources instead of petrochemicals. Amylolytic bacteria Lactobacillus amylovorus ATCC 33622 is reported to have the efficiency of full conversion of liquefied cornstarch to lactic acid with a productivity of 20 g l-1 h-1. A maximum of 35 g l-1 h-1 was reported using a high cell density of L. helveticus (27 g l-1) with a complete conversion of 55- to 60-g l-1 lactose present in whey. Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation is proved to be best in the sense of high substrate concentration in lower reactor volume and low fermentation cost. In this review, a survey has been made to see how effectively the fermentation technology explored and exploited the cheaply available source materials for value addition with special emphasis on lactic acid production.

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