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A step forward for bio-based butadiene

By Scott Jenkins |

Increased use of ethane from shale deposits as a feedstock for ethylene production has focused attention on the growing need for on-purpose production of butadiene, which has traditionally been produced primarily as a byproduct of conventional ethylene production from naphtha. Among the areas of exploration has been a bio-based route to butadiene using renewable feedstock. Now, a joint effort by Genomatica (San Diego, Calif.; www.genomatica.com) and Braskem (São Paulo, Brazil; www.braskem.com) has resulted in the continuous, direct production of butadiene from sugar using a fermentation-based process. The companies say that their technology platform is “running well” and they have been producing bio-based butadiene at laboratory scale since June 2015. The Genomatica-Braskem program has developed a bacterial strain capable of consuming sugar and synthesizing butadiene in 2-L fermenters. Using computational tools, Genomatica identified 60 possible metabolic routes to butadiene and selected the five most promising — in terms of enzyme activity and specificity, as well as favorable free energies — for experimental validation. With genetic engineering, enzyme modification and directed-evolution on the relevant metabolic pathway,…
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