Photo courtesy of Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab Chemical Produced from Renewables Instead of Petroleum for First TimeA critical breakthrough in the cleaner production of malonic acid — a valuable chemical used to manufacture many products, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, and specialty materials — was achieved by Researchers at Lygos Inc., an industrial biotechnology company.

More than a decade ago, a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy identified malonic acid as one of the top 30 value-added chemicals to be produced from biomass-derived sugar. To date, its production has relied on a petrochemical process that is costly and environmentally hazardous. The new manufacturing technology produces malonic acid from sugar — a cost- and energy-efficient process that could replace the existing petroleum production of malonic acid, decrease CO2 emissions, and eliminate toxic inputs.

"This is an exciting achievement for our team — it's the first time malonic acid has been produced in meaningful quantities from renewable materials instead of petroleum,” said Lygos CEO Dr. Eric Steen in the company’s press release. “With this manufacturing run, we are able to provide samples of high-quality malonic acid to customers and partners. As we move forward with commercialization, we're seeking additional partners to accelerate larger scale manufacturing and unlock new product applications."

The pilot-scale manufacturing was completed in the research phase of a program funded in part by the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). Lygos Inc. performed scaleup production in the Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory