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Demonstration of methane fermentation to lactic acid

By Scott Jenkins |

What is said to be the world’s first fermentation pathway from methane to lactic acid has been demonstrated by Calysta, Inc. (Menlo Park, Calif.; www.calysta.com). The fermentation process begins with an organism that feeds off of methane rather than typical sugar-based feedstocks and, through synthetic biology, has been altered to convert that methane to high levels of lactic acid. This lactic acid production process will be jointly developed under an agreement with biopolymer producer NatureWorks, LLC (Minnetonka, MN; www.natureworksllc.com), who produces polylactic acid for numerous applications, including textiles, consumer plastics and 3D printing. Although their current work is focused exclusively on lactic acid, Calysta emphasizes that the methane-fermentation platform could be tailored to produce a number of different chemical products, meaning that methane sourced from landfill gas, rice farming or wastewater-treatment processes could be harnessed to produce more valuable end-products. One of the main hurdles to reaching commercial-scale production is overcoming the mass-transfer issues associated with fermentation processes, which usually take place in large, stirred-tank reactors. Through a partnership with Celanese…
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