With the rapid development of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, a broad range of biochemicals can be biosynthesized, which include polyhydroxyalkanoates and isoprenoids. However, some of the bio-approaches in chemical synthesis have just started to be applied outside of laboratory settings, and many require considerable efforts to achieve economies of scale. One of the often-seen barriers is the low yield and productivity, which leads to higher unit cost and unit capital investment for the bioconversion process. In general, higher carbon economy (less carbon wastes during conversion process from biomass to objective bio-based chemicals) will result in higher bioconversion yield, which results in less waste being generated during the process. To achieve this goal, diversified strategies have been applied; matured strategies include pathway engineering to block competitive pathways, enzyme engineering to enhance the activities of enzymes, and process optimization to improve biomass/carbon yield. In this review, we analyze the impact of carbon sources from different types of biomass on the yield of bio-based chemicals (especially for polyhydroxyalkanoates and isoprenoids). Moreover, we summarize the traditional strategies for improving carbon economy during the bioconversion process and introduce the updated techniques in building up non-natural carbon pathways, which demonstrate higher carbon economies than their natural counterparts.
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