Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Soybeans a source of valuable chemical

Date:
December 19, 2012
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
The humble soybean could become an inexpensive new source of a widely used chemical for plastics, textiles, drugs, solvents and as a food additive.

Byproducts of soybeans include soluble carbohydrates that can be turned to succinic acid when metabolized by E. coli bacteria engineered at Rice University. Succinic acid is used in a variety of products, including plastics, textiles, drugs, solvents and food.
Credit: Bennett Lab/Rice University

The humble soybean could become an inexpensive new source of a widely used chemical for plastics, textiles, drugs, solvents and as a food additive.

Succinic acid, traditionally drawn from petroleum, is one focus of research by Rice chemists George Bennett and Ka-Yiu San. In 2004, the Department of Energy named succinic acid one of 12 "platform" chemicals that could be produced from sugars by biological means and turned into high-value materials.

Several years ago, Rice patented a process by Bennett and San for the bio-based production of succinic acid that employed genetically modified E. coli bacteria to convert glucose into succinic acid in a way that would be competitive with petroleum-based production.

The new succinate process developed by Bennett, San and Chandresh Thakker and reported recently in Bioresource Technology promises to make even better use of a cheap and plentiful feedstock, primarily the indigestible parts of the soybean.

"We are trying to find a cheaper, renewable raw material to start with so the end product will be more profitable," said Thakker, a research scientist in the Bennett lab at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative and lead author of the study. "The challenge has been to make this biomass process cost-competitive with the petrochemical methods people have been using for many years."

Bennett feels they have done that with soybean-derived feedstock as an inexpensive source of the carbon that microorganisms digest to produce the desired chemical via fermentation. "A lot of people use plant oils for cooking -- corn or soybean or canola -- instead of lard, as they did in the old days," he said. "The oils are among the main products of these seeds. Another product is protein, which is used as a high-quality food.

"What's left over is indigestible fiber and small carbohydrates," said Bennett, Rice's E. Dell Butcher Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. "It's used in small amounts in certain animal feeds, but overall it's a very low-value material."

The Rice researchers are changing that with the help of E. coli bacteria engineered to process soy meal that generally gets discarded. Certain microbes naturally produce succinic acid from such feedstock, but manipulating E. coli's metabolic pathways (by eliminating pathways that produce other chemicals like ethanol, for instance) can make it far more efficient.

Expanding on their success in producing succinic acid from glucose, the new microbes are engineered to metabolize a variety of sugars found in soybean meal. The theoretical ideal is a 1:1 ratio of feedstock (the extracted sugars) to product, which they feel is achievable by industry. In the lab, under less controlled conditions, they still found the process highly efficient. "We're demonstrating a very high yield," Thakker said. "We're achieving in a flask a non-optimized formation of succinate that is close to the theoretical goal."

Bennett said his lab has been looking at soybeans for nearly three years. "We're always interested in low-cost feedstock," he said. "We were able to get a connection with a soybean group that is very interested in technologies to make better and more profitable use of their crop.

"There's a fair amount of oilseed residuals available, including cottonseed carbohydrates, that are not used for any high-value product, and we're in the space of microbial engineering to enable these sorts of materials to be used in a good way," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Chandresh Thakker, George N. Bennett, Ka-Yiu San. Production of succinic acid by engineered E. coli strains using soybean carbohydrates as feedstock under aerobic fermentation conditions. Bioresource Technology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2012.10.154

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Soybeans a source of valuable chemical." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219142303.htm>.
Rice University. (2012, December 19). Soybeans a source of valuable chemical. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219142303.htm
Rice University. "Soybeans a source of valuable chemical." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219142303.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) An electric car that proponents hope will replace horse-drawn carriages in New York City has also been revealed at the auto show. (Apr. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins