The American Institute of Chemical Engineers published this article about Kalion, Inc. in December 2019.
Glucaric acid is a six-carbon diacid that has potential to serve as a platform chemical. In the past two decades, researchers and organizations have applied for several patents pertaining to glucaric acid. It has many uses, including:
- in the production of adipic acid for renewable nylon-6,6
- as a intermediate in the production of 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a high-performance renewable replacement for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in two-liter bottles
- as a polymer additive to increase the mechanical properties of several different classes of industrial fibers including polyacrylonitrile (PAN), a key precursor to carbon fibers
- as a replacement for phosphates to prevent corrosion in water treatment processes
- to strengthen recycled cotton so that it can be reused in clothing.
Each of these applications could help solve environmental challenges. Unfortunately, while the potential is significant, glucaric acid is primarily limited to pharmaceutical and nutraceutical uses because of its high cost.
Commercialization of glucaric acid has been hindered largely due to the lack of economically viable production methods. Traditional production methods such as nitric acid oxidation suffer from low yields and poor selectivity, which increases production costs. And, chemically synthesized glucaric acid requires extensive purification. A fermentation-based process could yield glucaric acid that is both low-cost and high-purity.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a high-theoretical-yield, short pathway to produce glucaric acid. The novel biosynthetic pathway, expressed in E. coli, consists of three enzymes from disparate organisms: yeast, mice, and bacteria.