Mpho Setlhaku


Development and optimization of the ABE fermentation process, focusing on fed-batch to continuous systems


Mpho successfully defended her thesis and currently works for SABIC in Geleen, The Netherlands.

About the project

The predicted shortage, coupled with a rise in demand and subsequently surging prices of fossil fuels provide a good and necessary platform for the development of alternative bio-chemicals. Some of which can be used for renewable energy sources, like n-butanol. Currently, butanol is produced via the petrochemical route and it is used as a precursor for acrylates and acrylate esters, which are used as coating materials, lacquers, solvents and cosmetics.

Biotechnological production of butanol, also known as Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol (ABE) process, through the anaerobic fermentation of mainly Clostridium acetobutylicum and Clostridium beijerinckii bacteria has seen great research interest due to the potential of butanol. To date, the fermentative butanol production is uneconomical due to high substrate costs, complex clostridia metabolism, ineffective production process and energy intensive downstream processing.

The main objective of this PhD project is to develop and optimize a production process for butanol via the fermentation of C. acetobutylicum.


Setlhaku M, Brunberg S, Wichmann R, del Amor Villa E (2011). Improvement in the catalyst productivity by coupling continuous fermentation reactor with repeated fed-batch reactor for Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol production. Journal of Biotechnology - CLIB Special Issue

M. Setlhaku, S. Heitmann, A. Górak, R. Wichmann “Investigation of gas stripping and pervaporation for improved feasibility of two-stage butanol production process“ (2013) Bioresource Technology  136  PP. 102 - 108

M. Setlhaku, S. Brunberg E.D.A., Villa, R. Wichmann „Improvement in the bioreactor specific productivity by coupling continuous reactor with repeated fed-batch reactor for acetone-butanol-ethanol production“ (2012) Journal of Biotechnology  161  (2)  PP. 147 - 152


Mpho’s project
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Mpho´s latest poster April 2011
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