Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Natural Nylon ??!

Back in the aughts, there was a time when food was cheap, and petroleum was expensive. People thought they could make petrochemicals from food -- strange as that seems today. [That is intended to be sarcasm.]  Today people know that it takes gasoline to make food.

Clever biomaterials chemists are training their bacteria to eat garbage instead.

Indeed DuPont is thinking just that. They and competitor Verdezyne have invented a bacteria that makes adipic acid from simpler feedstocks. Adipic acid is interesting because it is used to make nylon -- famous for woman's stockings, and used widely in clothing, but also in auto parts and lots of other things like tire cord and food packaging. (Nylon is called "polyamide" in Europe.)

Verdezyne,  has developed organisms that make adipic acid, which is 1,6 hexandioic acid.  Verdezyne has all the recent press, but DuPont patented a method for using mutant e coli to make adipic acid from cyclohexanol.

This sounds like a "Green Chemistry" project with enzymes being used to do a step that could have been done conventionally with more work. The bacteria arn't making the whole adipic acid -- just finishing it off.  This press release is overstating what they are doing.

On the other hand, there is increasing pressure to make disposable products from renewable feedstocks, and this is an important step on that road.

More:  Verdezyne used a combinatorial approach to designing the bacteria, and so this is one of the relatively few successes for combinatorial chemistry.

Yet More: link  << another link on Verdezyne