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Production of Succinic Acid Using a Process with CO2 Fixation

Succinic acid is a multipurpose platform chemical for improving flavors and producing pharmaceutical products, dyes, and bio-polyesters. By more efficiently incorporating carbon dioxide (CO2), an ecologically and economically attractive process for succinic acid production has been developed by a team headed by Elke Nevoigt, Professor of Molecular Biotechnology at Jacobs University Bremen. For another three years, the German Research Foundation (DFG) is financially supporting the project.

Production of Succinic Acid Using a Process with CO2 Fixation

By integrating CO2 more effectively, Professor Elke Nevoigt and her team developed a process that makes production of succinic acid more economical. Image credits: Jacobs University

In the chemical industry, several products are based on fossil raw materials including gas, oil, or coal. Currently, scientists are discovering substitutes built from plant waste streams and renewable carbon sources. This is also applicable to succinic acid production, which has been achieved from petroleum, as well as by fermentation from sugar and starch.

Nevoigt employs glycerol as a substitute for a carbon source. For more than a decade, she has been studying this byproduct of biodiesel production.

It’s exciting because glycerol has a high electron density. Compared with sugars, you therefore get a higher yield of succinic acid per carbon used.

Elke Nevoigt, Scientist, Jacobs University

The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is used in the microbial production process of succinic acid by a study team in association with TU Delft in the Netherlands.

Glycerol consists of three carbon atoms, CO2 of one. In total, we end up with the four carbon atoms in the succinic acid we want to produce.

Elke Nevoigt, Scientist, Jacobs University

The environmental impact and energy efficiency are the benefits of this process. Using glycerol as the raw material means not only more succinic acid created in comparison to sugars, but also more CO2  fixed simultaneously.

Nevoigt employs the benefits that baker’s yeast offers to the production process of succinic acid in an extended research approach. For instance, yeast is more resistant to low pH values compared to bacteria, making the production process more stable and, most importantly, more economical. The study group is currently performing research to optimize the process even more. The yeast cells must create extra succinic acid from glycerol.

Improving the cell’s energy balance would allow more carbon to be incorporated into the target product, succinic acid,” Nevoigt concluded.


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