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Novel Anaerobic Microbial Process to Synthesize Ethylene

Energy, Cleantech & Environmental
Research & Design Tools
College
College of Arts & Sciences
Researchers
Tabita, Fred
Miller, Anthony
North, Justin
Young, Sarah
Licensing Manager
Dahlman, Jason "Jay"
614/292-7945
dahlman.3@osu.edu

TS-036545 — A newly discovered totally anaerobic (oxygen deficient) methionine salvage process was discovered that leads to the production of large amounts of ethylene. The novel genes and enzymes of this process appear to be widespread and regulated, suggesting that it will be feasible to manipulate bacterial metabolism in select microorganisms.The Need

Ethylene (C2H4) is used in a variety of industrial processes, including the production of polyethylene for plastic bags, polystyrene for packaging and insulation, and ethylene oxide for detergents. Manufacturing of ethylene is done today through the thermal cracking of either naphtha (an o…

The Need

Ethylene (C2H4) is used in a variety of industrial processes, including the production of polyethylene for plastic bags, polystyrene for packaging and insulation, and ethylene oxide for detergents. Manufacturing of ethylene is done today through the thermal cracking of either naphtha (an oil derivative) or ethane (a natural gas component). Unfortunately, the existing chemical processes for synthesizing ethylene require huge inputs of energy (2 MJ of energy are required/pound of ethylene made), resulting in the emission of significant levels of CO2. Biological production of ethylene would greatly reduce the emission levels and reduce the amount of energy required to make ethylene. However, current biological production methods are not sustainable or able to be easily scaled up since they are aerobic (oxygen-dependent) processes, with ethylene-oxygen mixtures being highly flammable.

The Technology

Dr. F. Robert Tabita and colleagues at The Ohio State University's Department of Microbiology have recently pioneered a method of biologically producing high levels of ethylene under anaerobic conditions as a byproduct of methylthioadenosine (MTA) metabolism in facultatively ananerobic bacteria Rhodospirillum rubrum and Rhodopseudomoas palustris. Furthermore, research results indicate that culture and control conditions may be manipulation in these bacteria as well as other bacteria that degrade waste materials with the possibility to eliminate the need to supply MTA, thus reducing cost and improving sustainability.

Commercial Applications

  • Production of the precursor compound (ethylene) that is used to synthesize a variety of plastics for consumable product

Benefits/Advantages

  • A large amount of ethylene can be produced without the need for high energy input and the need for fossil fuels
  • Process could eliminate the need to supply methylthioadenosine
  • After optimization, there is the potential for lower cost than current production methods