Eco-friendly Developments Blossom

Chemical makers strive to markedly extend the role of renewable feedstocks

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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"The success of this trial, albeit under laboratory conditions, is proof that polyester fiber can be industrially produced from fully renewable biomass feedstock alone. This is a significant step that would contribute to the realization of a sustainable, low-carbon society," says the company.

In a separate development, in early December 2011, Gevo received U.S. Patent 8,017,358 on another aspect of its yeast technology that enables low-cost, high-yield production of bio-based isobutanol. The patent covers additional "Methods of Increasing Dihydroxy Acid Dehydratase (DHAD) Activity to Improve Production of Fuels, Chemicals, and Amino Acids."

"This invention further details and protects the innovations contained in the Gevo yeast organism to turn an industrial yeast strain into a highly efficient cell factory to produce isobutanol," notes Brett Lund, executive vice president and general counsel.

Verdezyne, Carlsbad, Calif., has started up a pilot plant there to make bio-based adipic acid, a key component of nylon 6,6, via a yeast fermentation process that uses non-food plant-based feedstocks (Figure 2). Because of the demand for nylon, the global adipic acid market today is said to amount to more than $6 billion/yr.

"We are excited to achieve this key milestone," says Dr. E. William Radany, president and CEO. "This is the first demonstration of the production of bio-based adipic acid at scale from a non-petroleum source. Our novel yeast platform enables production of adipic acid at a lower cost than current petrochemical manufacturing processes."

Verdezyne's approach reportedly offers a number of other advantages over petroleum-based methods, including less generation of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

"This plant will allow us to demonstrate the scalability of our process, validate our cost projections and generate sufficient quantities of material for commercial market development," notes Dr. Stephen Picataggio, chief scientific officer.

Meanwhile, P2 Science, New Haven, Ct., a Yale University spin-off, is using patent-pending technology from the Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering to develop and manufacture a new class of high-performance surfactants, C-glycosides (CGs).

CGs can be used in a range of consumer and industrial products such as detergents, personal care products, cosmetics, lubricants, hard-surface cleaners and emulsion polymers as well as in mining and oilfield chemicals.

The new surfactants are mild in use, stable, customizable and manufactured in low-energy-intensive conditions, says the firm.

Carbohydrate-based surfactants have long been of interest because of their desirable performance properties and potential to be derived from renewable feedstocks. Although most carbohydrate-based surfactants utilize an O-glycoside linkage, recent advances in carbohydrate C–C bond formation have allowed for the synthesis of new classes of carbohydrate-based surfactants using a C-glycoside linkage.

Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at



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