BASF Grooms Bio-Based Succinic Acid; Honors Harvard Professor

Company focuses on renewable resources to achieve sustainability.

By Chemical Processing Staff

BASF and Purac, a subsidiary of CSM NV, will form a joint venture to produce bio-based succinic acid. The companies have been conducting research under a joint development agreement on bio-based succinic acid since 2009. Their complementary strengths in fermentation and downstream processing reportedly have led to a sustainable and highly efficient manufacturing process based on a proprietary microorganism. The demand for succinic acid is anticipated to grow strongly in the next years, according to the companies. Main drivers are expected to be bioplastics, chemical intermediates, solvents, polyurethanes and plasticizers.

The newly developed process combines high efficiency with the use of renewable substrates and the fixation of the greenhouse gas CO2 during the production. This results in a positive carbon-footprint and makes bio-based succinic acid an economically and ecologically attractive alternative to petrochemical substitutes. The employed microorganism, Basfia succiniciproducens, naturally produces succinic acid and can process a wide variety of C3, C5 and C6 renewable feedstocks, including biomass sources.

In other news, Professor Tobias Ritter of Harvard University recently received the BASF Catalysis Award 2011 for his outstanding research contributions to catalytic processes in organic synthesis. The prize is worth €10,000.

"Catalysis is a key technology for the chemical industry and is an indispensable tool for accessing new feedstocks and developing new energy efficient production processes," says Dr. Friedrich Seitz, head of BASF's Technology Platform Chemicals Research & Engineering. As a company with a strong international research and development platform for catalysts, BASF therefore attaches particular importance to promoting talented young researchers in this field.

With his research group centered at Harvard University, Professor Tobias Ritter is working in the field of synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry and, specifically, on the synthesis of complex molecules. Mechanistic studies are ongoing to develop practical access to molecules of interest in catalysis, medicine and for new materials.
Ritter and his research team are currently focusing on fluorination chemistry of complex compounds under mild reaction conditions. This is because organic fluorine compounds, compared to compounds of other halogens, are difficult to synthesize in a controlled manner. However, these substances are of major interest: medical professionals use them for imaging techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET).

"We have developed a new process enabling us to selectively synthesize organic fluorine compounds. Our aim is to extend the universe of substrates for PET spectroscopy," explains Dr. Ritter. The chemist, born in 1975 in Lübeck (Germany), has already received numerous awards for his research achievements. He has been based in Harvard since 2006 and was appointed Associate Professor in 2010.

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