Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Making Succinic Acid from Sugarcane for Sustainable Future


In an essential step towards eco-friendly chemical manufacturing in today’s severe global warming, researchers at the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) have come up with a groundbreaking method to produce succinic acid from sugarcane. 

How is Succinic Acid from Sugarcane Produced?

This advanced method holds the potential to reshape the landscape of industrial preservatives. Succinic acid – a pivotal industrial chemical used in various applications – has previously posed challenges in its production. Considering this, researchers from the University of Illinois and Princeton have paved the path to cost-effective, end-to-end solutions. The entire production pipeline is economical and efficient by engineering powerful acid-resistant yeast, thus eliminating expensive downstream processes. 

Researchers from various fields, including chemical engineering, environmental science, and bioprocessing, contributed to this transformative project, showcasing the power of collaborative innovation. The success of this research not only signifies a milestone in sustainable chemical production but also underlines the importance of sustainable land use. “This [research] will serve as a blueprint for all the other metabolic engineering products in CABBI,” said Zhao, one of several CABBI principal investigators on the project.

What Is The Key Element?

This breakthrough becomes even more significant considering the diverse applications of succinic acid from sugarcane, ranging from food and beverages to agricultural and pharmaceutical products. The key to this innovation lies in the unconventional yeast – Issatchenkia orientalis – known for thriving in low-pH environments. This yeast doesn’t require neutralization additives, significantly reducing production costs. “The organism lives happily at a pH of 3 to 4, so the additives are unnecessary. In the end, that significantly reduces costs.”

The researchers carefully rewired I. orientalis’s metabolism, enabling it to produce succinic acid from sugarcane at higher levels than previously achieved with other organisms. The team also conducted rigorous scaling experiments, showcasing the potential of this method for large-scale production. 

Remarks of the Researcher

The co-author of the research also emphasized the environmental benefits of this approach, confirming that this new process emits fewer carbon dioxide emissions than traditional petroleum-based chemical processing methods. It is also noteworthy that sugarcane plants act as carbon sinks, reducing overall carbon footing. “It’s definitely more environmentally friendly. That’s the premise for all the research in CABBI: using renewable resources to make chemicals and fuels,” Zhao said.

As the world continues to seek eco-friendly solutions in the face of climate change, this succinic acid from sugarcane-powered innovation stands as a beacon of hope. It exemplifies the possibilities of utilizing nature’s resources efficiently and sustainably, ushering in a new era of responsible chemical production.

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