The new article by Amir Akbari and Paul I. Barton, Integrating Genome-Scale and Superstructure Optimization Models in Techno-Economic Studies of Biorefineries, has been selected as the cover story for the journal Processes 2019, 7(5). The article is open-access and can be viewed here.
Genome-scale models have become indispensable tools for the study of cellular growth. These models have been progressively improving over the past two decades, enabling accurate predictions of metabolic fluxes and key phenotypes under a variety of growth conditions. In this work, an efficient computational method is proposed to incorporate genome-scale models into superstructure optimization settings, introducing them as viable growth models to simulate the cultivation section of biorefinaries. We perform techno-economic and life-cycle analyses of an algal biorefinery with five processing sections to determine optimal processing pathways and technologies. Formulation of this problem results in a mixed-integer nonlinear program, in which the net present value is maximized with respect to mass flowrates and design parameters. We use a genome-scale metabolic model of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to predict growth rates in the cultivation section. We study algae cultivation in open ponds, in which exchange fluxes of biomass and carbon dioxide are directly determined by the metabolic model. This formulation enables the coupling of flowrates and design parameters, leading to more accurate cultivation productivity estimates with respect to substrate concentration and light intensity.