The laboratory of Prof. van Zyl is well established in the microbiology and biochemistry of plant degrading enzymes. He is a research leader in South Africa with significant international recognition in the recombinant production of these enzymes in Bakers’ yeast for biofuel production from total plant biomass, and filamentous fungal (Aspergillus niger) application in food and feed industries. Prof. van Zyl has established collaboration with researchers in Europe and the USA, particularly in the field of biomass conversion to bioethanol, and he holds several joint international patents in these fields.
In 2007 Prof. van Zyl was awarded the prestigious Senior Chair of Energy Research (CoER) in Biofuels and other clean alternative fuels, currently funded as a Tier 1 SARChI Chair by die NRF. In this capacity he is steering a large research programme towards the development of advanced second generation technologies for the conversion of total plant biomass to biofuels and to serve the larger bioeconomy. The CoER team also (i) focuses on human capital development with a strong scientific and engineering training, (i) interacts with South African experts from industry, businesses and NGOs, and (iii) tries to stay abreast with latest technologies and research through extensive international collaboration networks.
Prof. van Zyl’s group generated several patents in the mid 2000’s when his research group conducting research for Mascoma Corporation (http://www.mascoma.com) in New Hampshire, USA towards commercializing cellulosic yeasts for bioethanol production. Mascoma Corporation has subsequently sold its yeast technology to the Canadian company Lallemand Inc (http://www.lallemand.com/).
- Evaluating native yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains) for their potential for second generation bioethanol production
- Developing of CBP Yeast for raw starch and cellulosic conversion to biofuels
- Development of enzyme producing fungal cell factories for lignin conversion to green chemicals
- Development of a carboxylate platform for production of green chemicals using rumen microbial cultures