Stemming from continued foreign oil dependency, Codexis and Cargill have developed a microbial process that will convert corn sugar to a chemical intermediate. When fully commercialized, the industrial biotech process will convert dextrose derived from corn to a chemical intermediate known as 3, hydroxyproprionic acid (3HP).
The new process will utilize very low-cost, clean agricultural feedstocks instead of petroleum to produce 3HP. 3HP is a key intermediate for several commercially important chemicals. The chemicals that can be produced from 3HP include acrylic acid, acrylamide and 1,3 propanediol. Acrylic acid and its derivatives are used to create a wide range of polymer-based consumer and industrial products, such as adhesives, paints, polishes, protective coatings, and sealants. This new process is cheaper and more environmental friendly than the old process that uses petroleum as a feedstock.
"Industrial biotechnology converges seamlessly with other scientific disciplines and is a powerful source of innovation for new products and processes," states Brent Erickson, executive vice president for Biotechnology Industry Organizationâ€™s Industrial and Environmental Section. "The global acrylic acid market is worth over $4 billion. This breakthrough is going to shake up the chemical industry and it will help U.S. companies that adopt it to be more competitive in the global marketplace."
"With natural gas and crude oil prices going through the roof, the commercialization of this renewable chemical platform should be great news for the chemical industry. The chemical industry needs new feedstocks to stay competitive, and this chemical platform will be based on corn, not foreign oil."
Erickson explains that the biobased economy that is evolving is more than just ethanol. "The interface between industrial biotechnology and agricultural production provides the ability to produce inexpensive, natural raw materials â€“ such as sugars and lipids â€“ for manufacturing biobased products," he says. "Sugars and lipids from agricultural crops can be used in many products, replacing increasingly expensive oil and natural gas, which are currently the main feedstocks of the chemical industry."