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Biotech Green Revolution: Clothing, Plastics From Biomass Sugars

on August 12 | in Ag News | by | with No Comments

From Bioproducts Update

Stretchy, high-performance athletic clothing can be much more environmentally friendly thanks to Genomatica, a San Diego biotech company. Think eco-friendly Spandex.

Genomatica scientists have tinkered with the genes of a harmless bacterium in the lab to accomplish a crazy good thing for the environment (and for environmentally conscious manufacturers).

Biotech green revolution

The bug, called E. coli, converts biomass sugars into a commercially important chemical precursor used to make everything from athletic jackets to electronic and vehicle parts. The precursor is a tongue-twister of a chemical called 1, 4-butanediol, or BDO. It had come only from petroleum precursors, until Genomatica developed the technology to make it from biomass sugars.

“We are not the producer of the products, themselves,” said Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica, during a presentation June 24 at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) world convention. “However, we are enabling the transformation of the chemical industry by using alternative, non-petroleum feedstocks to make commodity chemicals like BDO.”

While butanediol may be a name only a chemist could love, companies like DSM Engineering Plastics are using it to make polyester plastics. Petroleum-derived BDO is being challenged as “feedstock” in the company’s bio-plastic Arnitel Eco. The company said that fiber is made from 50 percent renewable products (rapeseed oil), but Genomatica’s BDO “has the potential to increase Arnitel’s bio-based content by 73 percent.”

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