Sustainable Microbial Manufacture of Adipic Acid from Industrial and Post-Consumer Waste

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


Many of the small molecules essential to our every-day lives (e.g. pharmaceuticals, clothing, cosmetics, materials, etc.) are currently manufactured from diminishing fossil fuels via industrial processes that contribute significantly to global climate change. Record high atmospheric CO2 levels in 2020 and ambitious net-zero carbon emission targets by 2050 mean that urgent sustainable manufacturing solutions are now required to reduce the environmental burden of this industry on our planet for future generations. The MICROSYN project will uniquely combine cutting-edge modern biological engineering with green chemistry to create transformative solutions to the sustainable manufacture of the nylon-precursor adipic acid from abundant waste generated by the paper-mill industry (lignin) and consumer use (plastic bottles). This will eliminate carbon emissions from the current petrochemical method used to make this compound (currently >20,000,000 ton/year; 5-10% of all human-associated CO2/N2O emissions worldwide) and create circular bioprocesses that avoid the incineration of existing waste streams (releasing further CO2), whilst also addressing the global plastic waste crisis. The project recognizes low-value waste as an underutilized carbon-rich feedstock, and employs modern synthetic biology to transform these abundant and sustainable resources into a high-value chemical via novel biomanufacturing processes.


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