delware environmental institute

PNAS paper reports new approach to methanol utilization

Bio-fuels and bio-based chemicals have gained tremendous traction over the past decade as a means to produce alternatives to fossil fuels and to replace bulk chemical production methods that rely on petrochemicals.

“Methanol, which can be produced inexpensively from natural gas or renewably through the reduction of carbon dioxide by hydrogen, can serve as a feedstock to produce biofuels, amino acids, and polymers,” says the University of Delaware’s Wilfred Chen. “However, the initial reaction in the conversion of methanol to formaldehyde is highly reversible.”

To overcome this obstacle to methanol utilization, Chen teamed with Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis in the Delaware Biotechnology Institute to develop a biological approach that renders the process irreversible.

Their work is reported in a paper, “Scaffoldless Engineered Enzyme Assembly for Enhanced Methanol Utilization,” published in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Oct. 24.