BASF Joins Cargill And Novozymes On Process For Biobased Acrylic Acid | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: August 20, 2012

BASF Joins Cargill And Novozymes On Process For Biobased Acrylic Acid

Partnership: Initial plan is to use acrylic acid to manufacture superabsorbent polymers
Department: Business
Keywords: acrylic acid, biobased chemicals, fermentation
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A Novozymes researcher examines enzymes for chemicals production.
Credit: Novozymes
Photo of a Novozymes researcher examining industrial enzymes.
 
A Novozymes researcher examines enzymes for chemicals production.
Credit: Novozymes

BASF, the world’s largest chemical firm, has joined agricultural products giant Cargill and Novozymes, a maker of industrial enzymes, in a partnership to commercialize a biological route to acrylic acid.

In a joint announcement, the three firms say their target market is diapers and similar products that rely on superabsorbent polymers made from acrylic acid. Acrylic acid is also used to make detergents, paints, and adhesives. According to the three companies, the global market for acrylic acid is around 4.5 million tons and is worth $11 billion per year.

Cargill and Novozymes have been working on renewable acrylic acid technology since 2008. At the time, the two firms said they expected the technology to be ready for commercialization within five years. BASF is the world’s largest producer of acrylic acid. It makes the key monomer by oxidizing propylene derived from the refining of crude oil.

The collaboration between Novozymes and Cargill has focused on genetically engineering microbes to efficiently convert sugar into 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP), an alternative precursor to acrylic acid. BASF’s role in the enlarged collaboration will be to develop a process to convert 3-HP into acrylic acid.

This route is also being pursued by biobased chemicals start-up OPX Biotechnologies. OPX is working with Dow Chemical to convert 3-HP into acrylic acid via catalytic dehydration. In April, OPX reported that it had scaled its production of 3-HP to a 3,000-L fermenter operated by Michigan Biotechnology Institute.

 
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