Plastic from sugar, not oil

Genomatica, a San Diego based company, plans to have a pilot plant up and running next year that will produce 1,4 butanediol (BDO) from bacteria. Currently, oil is needed by plastic manufacturers to make BDO. BDO is the base chemical used in the production of plastics.

‘”We are able to couple the growth of the organism to the production of BDO,” said Christophe Schilling, co-founder of the company, Genomatica. “For the bacteria to grow they have to produce BDO.”‘

Genomatica says that their process will be cost competitive with oil even if oil dropped back down to $50 per barrel. So with the price of oil in the $100 per barrel range, savings for companies making plastic will be substantial.

What Genomatica did was to find gene sequences in bacteria that use sugar to produce BDO like compounds, and then spliced those genes into common E. coli bacteria that will be used in their process.

While Genomatica is working towards their goal of getting a pilot plant up and running next year, they also are looking further than that. They’re looking at modifying their E. coli to produce other oil based chemicals.

via Discovery News

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