Evonik, Graz Uni develop biocatalytic route hydrocarbon compounds

Evonik, Graz Uni develop biocatalytic route for hydrocarbon compounds

9:32 AM, 18th December 2015
Evonik, Graz Uni develop biocatalytic route for hydrocarbon compounds
Evonik Industries and Graz University together develop biocatalytic route for hydrocarbon compounds.

ESSEN, GERMANY: Researchers at Evonik Industries, in cooperation with scientists from Graz University, have discovered a biocatalytic access to 1-alkenes such as propene and 1-butene.

Such hydrocarbon compounds are considered as key substances for the chemical industry's sophisticated integrated production of high-quality products.

For example, Evonik uses propene in the manufacture of super absorbents or methionine, while 1-butene serves as a component in many types of polyethylene and can be used as a raw material for producing plasticizers.

Such materials have been typically manufactured with the aid of biocatalysis. In the opinion of leading scientists, the expansion of biotechnological processes to base, bulk and numerous specialty chemicals remains a largely unresolved challenge to this day.

“If we can succeed in developing technically and economically feasible solutions in this area, we would be able to efficiently combine biotechnological and petrochemical processes in the chemical industry in the form of integrated production for greater added value,” said Dr Thomas Haas, head of the science & technology unit at Creavis, Evonik’s strategic innovation unit.

The industry researchers and the scientists working under prof Kurt Faber achieved a first breakthrough when they used naturally occurring short-chain alkanoic acids—saturated fatty acids produced by bacteria—as the source material for 1-alkenes.

An established enzyme system, P450 monooxygenase OleT, catalyzes this chemical reaction—oxidative decarboxylation of alkanoic acids to 1-alkenes—very efficiently and substrate-specifically. The cascade of two additional enzyme systems, the required electrons for oxidation is absorbed from oxygen in the air.

“We will only be able to make equal use of fossil and biogenic raw material streams if we can find a way to incorporate biotechnological processes into integrated chemical production. This will help maintain and expand the industry’s established and efficient value chains,” said Haas.

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