Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., has announced that it has developed a path breaking technology for efficiently producing isoprene from biomass. The new technology is the outcome of research that the tire manufacturer conducted jointly with RIKEN and Zeon Corporation.
The three partners started working on the project in 2013 and used computer-based in-silico metabolic design technology to discover the new isoprene-synthesizing process in 2015. Metabolic design technology is the term that is used for technologies that are used for designing new artificial metabolic reactions on computers.
The three companies further refined the new process which utilizes an artificial pathway and highly active enzymes to create cells which have excellent isoprene-synthesizing capability. The new technology is used to make cells which have the capability to generate isoprene from a biomass (sugar) that serves as the starting material. The in-vivo generated isoprene is then polymerized to achieve synthesis of polyisoprene rubber. The research project effectively leveraged the cell design and plant science technologies of the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) to develop this new technology.
Generally, isoprene is made naturally from mevalonic acid (an intermediate substance obtained from sugar) through a five-stage reaction, but the new artificial process that was developed through the joint research cuts this process down to two stages. The highly active enzymes involved in the process have a very high capacity to produce isoprenes that naturally occurring enzymes do not have. Colon bacilli bacteria into which this artificial pathway and these enzymes have been introduced develop an isoprene-generating ability that naturally occurring bacteria do not have and they can efficiently make isoprene through artificial synthesis. Yokohama Rubber confirmed that this very same technology can be used for butadiene-based synthetic rubber and other diene rubbers.
RIKEN is Japan’s only comprehensive research institution for the natural sciences. RIKEN CSRS is dedicated to the realization of a sustainable society through its research in the field of biological functions, especially its basic research on the effective use of plant-microorganism bioprocesses. Zeon, a manufacturer of synthetic rubbers, places its research emphasis on polymerization catalyst technology and enhancing the performance of synthetic rubbers. Yokohama Rubber is a comprehensive manufacturer of tire and rubber products and is actively engaged in research on utilizing biomass derived from plants, which is carbon-neutral (CO2 emission levels=CO2 absorption levels).
Isoprene is used as a raw material for the production of synthetic rubber (polyisoprene rubber) which is used for the manufacture of automobile tires and other applications. Currently, industrial isoprene is obtained as a by-product of naphtha pyrolysis. The development of this new technology for synthesizing isoprene will reduce dependence on petroleum and contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is considered a cause of global warming.
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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