Issue Date: April 18, 2011
Renewable Chemicals: OPX collaborates with Dow For biobased acrylic acid
Biobased chemicals start-up OPX Biotechnologies will partner with Dow Chemical to make acrylic acid from sugar at demonstration scale.
In February, OPX said its pilot-scale process proved that acrylic acid could be produced commercially from corn sugar for 70 cents per lb, 5 cents cheaper than from petroleum. Now, OPX will work with Dow to prove the technical and economic viability of manufacturing and using biobased acrylic acid in an industrial setting.
The deal allows OPX to concentrate on the first half of the production system: making 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3HP) from sugar with its proprietary engineered microbes. “Then the partnership will leverage Dow’s abilities in catalytic chemical processes for 3HP dehydration to bioacrylic,” explains OPX CEO Charles R. Eggert.
The Dow collaboration marks the first major corporate partnership for OPX, which was founded in 2007. A recent analysis of 83 renewables firms with technologies based on synthetic biology shows that partnerships with larger companies are an important indicator of dominance.
“The Dow deal bumps OPX up in that category,” says Mark Bünger, research director at Lux Research, which developed the analysis. “In this burgeoning space, a lot of companies are going from relatively simple monomers to more high-value end products.
For its part, Dow has made only a few alliances with outside firms for renewable chemicals technology. In March, it signed an agreement with algal-oil firm Solazyme to investigate use of the oil in biobased dielectric insulating fluids for transformers and other electrical applications.
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