Saturday, 15 August 2020

Sustainable nylon production - from bacteria

Nylon manufacture could be revolutionised by the discovery that bacteria can make a key chemical involved in the process, without emitting harmful greenhouse gases.

Scientists have developed a sustainable method of making one of the most valuable industrial chemicals in the world -- known as adipic acid -- which is a key component of the material.

More than two million tonnes of the versatile fabric -- used to make clothing, furniture and parachutes -- is produced globally each year, with a market value of around £5 billion.

Industrial production of adipic acid relies on fossil fuels and produces large amounts of nitrous oxide -- a greenhouse gas three hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide. A sustainable production method is urgently required to reduce the damage caused to the environment, the team says.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh altered the genetic code of the common bacteria E.coli in the lab. The modified cells were grown in liquid solutions containing a naturally occurring chemical, called guaiacol, which is the main component of a compound that gives plants their shape.

Following a 24-hour incubation period, the modified bacteria transformed the guaiacol into adipic acid, without producing nitrous oxide.The environmentally friendly approach could be scaled up to make adipic acid on an industrial scale.


Jack T. Suitor, Simon Varzandeh, Stephen Wallace. One-Pot Synthesis of Adipic Acid from Guaiacol in Escherichia coli. ACS Synthetic Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.0c00254

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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