Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Soybeans a source of valuable chemical

Rice University scientists turn low-value soy mash into high-value succinic acid
The humble soybean could become an inexpensive new source of a widely used chemical for plastics, textiles, drugs, solvents and as a food additive.

Succinic acid, traditionally drawn from petroleum, is one focus of research by Rice chemists George Bennett and Ka-Yiu San. In 2004, the Department of Energy named succinic acid one of 12 “platform” chemicals that could be produced from sugars by biological means and turned into high-value materials.

Several years ago, Rice patented a process by Bennett and San for the bio-based production of succinic acid that employed genetically modified E. coli bacteria to convert glucose into succinic acid in a way that would be competitive with petroleum-based production.

The new succinate process developed by Bennett, San and Chandresh Thakker and reported recently in Bioresource Technology promises to make even better use of a cheap and plentiful feedstock, primarily the indigestible parts of the soybean.

“We are trying to find a cheaper, renewable raw material to start with so the end product will be more profitable,” said Thakker, a research scientist in the Bennett lab at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative and lead author of the study. “The challenge has been to make this biomass process cost-competitive with the petrochemical methods people have been using for many years.”

Bennett feels they have done that with soybean-derived feedstock as an inexpensive source of the carbon that microorganisms digest to produce the desired chemical via fermentation. “A lot of people use plant oils for cooking – corn or soybean or canola — instead of lard, as they did in the old days,” he said. “The oils are among the main products of these seeds. Another product is protein, which is used as a high-quality food.

“What’s left over is indigestible fiber and small carbohydrates,” said Bennett, Rice’s E. Dell Butcher Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. “It’s used in small amounts in certain animal feeds, but overall it’s a very low-value material.”

The Rice researchers are changing that with the help of E. coli bacteria engineered to process soy meal that generally gets discarded. Certain microbes naturally produce succinic acid from such feedstock, but manipulating E. coli’s metabolic pathways (by eliminating pathways that produce other chemicals like ethanol, for instance) can make it far more efficient.

Expanding on their success in producing succinic acid from glucose, the new microbes are engineered to metabolize a variety of sugars found in soybean meal. The theoretical ideal is a 1:1 ratio of feedstock (the extracted sugars) to product, which they feel is achievable by industry. In the lab, under less controlled conditions, they still found the process highly efficient. “We’re demonstrating a very high yield,” Thakker said. “We’re achieving in a flask a non-optimized formation of succinate that is close to the theoretical goal.”

Bennett said his lab has been looking at soybeans for nearly three years. “We’re always interested in low-cost feedstock,” he said. “We were able to get a connection with a soybean group that is very interested in technologies to make better and more profitable use of their crop.

“There’s a fair amount of oilseed residuals available, including cottonseed carbohydrates, that are not used for any high-value product, and we’re in the space of microbial engineering to enable these sorts of materials to be used in a good way,” he said.

Ka-Yiu San is the E.D. Butcher Professor of Bioengineering and a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice.

The United Soybean Board and the National Science Foundation supported the research.

David Ruth | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: E. coli metabolic pathway soybean succinic acid

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>