Acetone, a volatile solvent used for everything from removing nail polish and cleaning textiles to manufacturing plastics, could benefit from improved durability of a new strain of bacteria developed by a research team based in Japan.
They released details of the heat-loving, acetone-producing bacteria Moorella thermoacetica on April 23 at WITH Express.
Acetone is generally produced by the widely used cumene method, which is cost effective but not sustainable. The process, developed in 1942, involves converting two non-renewable resources into acetone and phenol, another chemical that helps make a number of materials, including plastics.
More environmentally friendly options exist – including gas fermentation, a bioprocess that converts carbon dioxide, monoxide and hydrogen into chemicals and fuels – but they tend to be cumbersome and expensive, according to Yutaka Nakashimada. , professor at the Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life, University of Hiroshima, who led the research. One of the main expenses is downstream processing, which involves separating the desired chemicals from other materials.
“We thought the key was simultaneous separation of the product from the ongoing fermentation,” Nakashimada said. “Our choice was to produce volatile chemicals using a group of bacteria that thrive at high temperatures.”
The bacteria, M. thermoacetica, eat the gaseous raw materials of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and monoxide – which can be obtained from renewable resources – to produce acetone. Since they grow at a temperature above the boiling point of acetone, the acetone produced is a gas that evaporates and can be distilled as bacteria make it. It streamlines the traditional system into a concurrent process.
“Our development of the modified bacteria could pave the way for the development of a consolidated process with simplified and cost-effective recovery by condensation after large-scale gas fermentation suitable for industrial production,” said Junya Kato, co-first author of the paper, specially appointed assistant. professor at the Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life, Hiroshima University.
To develop this productive strain of bacteria, researchers designed genetically engineered bacteria with altered metabolic processes.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to provide strains of bacteria that thrive at high temperatures for the gaseous fermentation of acetone,” Kato said. “Although further study is needed to improve productivity for the realization of industrial applications, the gas fermentation process may be simpler and more profitable than before.”
The researchers plan to expand their work and study the productivity of their bacteria under industrial conditions.
“We might need to genetically modify the metabolism of the strain,” Nakashimada said. “Our ultimate goal is the industrialization of the gas fermentation of the” gas-gas “process which is simpler and less expensive.”
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