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Chementator Briefs

By Edited by Gerald Ondrey |

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Bio-isoprene

Yokohama Rubber Co. (Tokyo, Japan; www.yokohama.com) has developed what is said to be the world’s first technology capable of efficiently producing isoprene from biomass. The new breakthrough is the result of joint research with Riken (www.riken.jp) and Zeon Corp. (both Tokyo; www.weon.co.jp).

Isoprene is a raw material in the production of synthetic rubber (polyisoprene rubber) used in automobile tires and other applications. Industrial isoprene is currently produced as a byproduct of naphtha cracking. The development of this new technology will reduce dependence on petroleum and contribute to the reduction of CO 2, a greenhouse gas.

The three partners began joint research in 2013, and in 2015, discovered a new isoprene-synthesizing process using a computer-based in-silico metabolic design technology — a technology for designing new artificial metabolic reactions on computers. Further development of this new technology has led to the creation of cells with excellent isoprene-synthesizing capability based on a new artificial pathway and highly active enzymes. These engineered cells metabolize (in vivo) sugar from biomass into isoprene, which can then be polymerized into polyisoprene rubber.

It has widely been understood that isoprene is produced naturally from mevalonic acid (an intermediate substance formed from sugar) through a five-stage reaction. The new artificial pathway reduces the stages down to two. Furthermore, the highly active enzymes possess a phenomenal isoprene-producing capability that is not achievable by natural enzymes. Introducing this artificial pathway and these enzymes into colon bacilli enhances the isoprene-generating ability that the bacteria lack in nature. Yokohama Rubber has confirmed that this technology can also be applied to butadiene-based synthetic rubber and other diene rubbers.

 

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