Conagen and Sumitomo Chemical Jointly Develop a New Era of Renewable Carbon Materials

Conagen, the bioplatform innovator and biomanufacturer, and Sumitomo Chemical, Japan’s leading chemical company, have announced to jointly develop p-hydroxystyrene (HS) and its polymer, poly p-hydroxystyrene (PHS), using a combination of biosynthesis, chemosynthesis, and polymerization. The monomer and the polymer are 100% renewable carbon, marking a new era of sustainable production.

Developing PHS using a combination of biosynthesis, chemosynthesis, and polymerization represents a significant breakthrough in sustainable material production. Efforts to reduce reliance on petroleum and transition towards renewable and sustainable alternatives have gained momentum in recent years. With renewable biomass as the starting material, this joint devolvement between Conagen and Sumitomo Chemical creates an environmentally friendly and cost-effective product. The partnership is in the lead position of active global initiatives to reduce petroleum-based products’ consumption and environmental impact.

This partnership represents a significant milestone in developing sustainable materials, and this approach to PHS production is expected to reduce the carbon footprint associated with traditional chemical synthesis methods. It is a crucial step towards more sustainable manufacturing processes with a positive impact.

The Conagen-Sumitomo partnership leverages Conagen’s expertise in microbial strain design and development with Sumitomo Chemical’s proficiency in chemical production and commercialization. The collaboration aims to create a platform that enables the production of sustainable chemicals to replace petrochemicals in an extended range of many applications.

PHS is used to produce polymers, resins, and other chemicals. The monomer HS can also be used as an input for the synthesis of other substances, such as pharmaceuticals and fragrances. The applications of HS and PHS are limitless and can span uses from electronics to personal care and other consumer products.

“This partnership represents a significant step forward in pursuing green chemicals for sustainable material production,” said J. McNamara, Ph.D., V.P. of chemical applications at Conagen. “Our commitment is a testament to the power of collaboration and the potential of combining our technologies with synthetic and polymer chemistries to create innovative, sustainable solutions that can significantly reduce petroleum-based products in the environment,” McNamara stated. “Together, we’re marking a new era of carbon-neutral material production efforts.”

The monomer HS, with the chemical formula C8H8O, is a derivative of styrene in which a hydroxyl group (-OH) is attached to the aromatic ring’s para position (carbon atom 4). The HS and PHS are examples of green chemistry for minimizing waste, reducing hazardous chemicals, and using catalysts that can be easily separated and reused. This joint development project promises to potentially pave the way for developing novel renewable and sustainable materials. “Similar technology can be used to produce other key chemical ingredients by fermentation at industrial scale, such as cinnamic acid, monohydroxy-benzoic acid, and dihydroxy-benzoic acid,” said McNamara.

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