New routes to the sustainable manufacturing of chemicals

University of Manchester researchers led by Professor Nick Turner have developed a novel biocatalytic system that potentially allows for the efficient and environmentally benign production of organic chemical compounds used in many everyday products. The findings are published in the leading journal Science.

Amines are key intermediates for the synthesis of a plethora of chemical compounds at industrial scale used in the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, fine chemicals, agrochemicals, polymers, dyestuffs, pigments and plasticising agents. But these requisite amines are scarce in nature. Although various methods have been developed in the past decade to produce these specialised high-value chemicals, they require long chemical synthetic routes involving complex reaction steps with potentially toxic side-products and waste streams.

Researchers at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB), in collaboration with BASF, have developed a system that replaces these methods with a clean biocatalytic route whereby high value amines are synthesised from low cost alcohols by the coupling of two enzymes, namely an ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) and an AmDH (amine dehydrogenase) in the presence of ammonia. Normally these enzymes would require excessive amounts of expensive co-factors to drive the individual reactions but these co-factors are recycled through the coupling of ADH and AmDH in a one-pot reaction whose sole by-product is water.

For more information see the New routes to the sustainable manufacturing of chemicals press release.

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