Volatile fatty acids (VFAs) are short-chain fatty acids composed mainly of C2-C6 carboxylic acids produced during anaerobic digestion and do not require sterilization, additional hydrolases or costly pretreatment steps. VFAs are readily produced from all biomass with low lignin content. Considering that the feedstock itself accounts for 40-80% of biofuel production costs, biofuels made from VFA extracted from waste organic biomass may have significant economic advantages.
The VFA platform could become a new way to produce biofuels and biochemicals as well as process organic waste. The main bottleneck in the industrialization of the VFA platform may be the cost of recovering VFA from the fermentation broth and its relatively low productivity (approximately 0.3 g/l/h). Several companies are conducting commercialization at pilot/demonstration scale.
Volatile fatty acids (VFAs) are organic compounds with 6 or fewer carbon atoms in their structure. Although these terms are unfamiliar to the public, they can be found in nature, often as a result of bacterial processes such as anaerobic digestion. Due to their high energy value, VFAs are a common component of animal metabolism and are widely used in vinegar production (acetic acid), food flavoring (butyric acid) or preservatives (propionic acid). Currently, volatile fatty acids are almost entirely obtained from fossil resources, which has a huge impact on the environment.
However, these VFAs can be produced through biological processes developed in recent decades, and new, more efficient and precise routes are still being found. Furthermore, they belong to the category of intermediate products, that is, depending on the chosen process, they can be converted into various final products (plastics, paints, lubricants, cosmetics, etc.). This flexibility in production and conversion is one of the reasons why the chemical industry's demand for VFAs is steadily growing.