Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

SDA press release

May 19, 2010

E. coli Has Its Benefits – Rice University Scientist Honored for Research Converting Glycerine Into High Value Products

· Professor Ramon Gonzalez Honored with 2010 Glycerine Innovation Award

· Annual Award Presented by Soap and Detergent Association, National Biodiesel Board

· $5,000 Honorarium, Plaque Presented at AOCS Annual Meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 19, 2010 – Escherichia coliE. coli for short – is often identified as a bacterium that contributes to foodborne illness. But research led by a Rice University scientist has discovered ways to use a safe, non-pathogenic E. coli to convert glycerine into high value fuels and chemicals.
Dr. Ramon Gonzalez, William W. Akers Assistant Professor in the Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Bioengineering at Rice University in Houston, received the 2010 Glycerine Innovation Award during the Annual Meeting & Expo of the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS). The Award is sponsored annually by The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA – www.cleaning101.com) and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).
Dr. Gonzalez and his team of researchers identified the metabolic processes and conditions that allow a known strain of E. coli to convert glycerine into ethanol. Glycerine is the major byproduct of biodiesel production.
Dr. Gonzalez says scientists previously believed that the only organisms that could ferment glycerol were those capable of producing a chemical called 1,3-propanediol, also known as 1,3-PDO. But neither the bacterium E. coli nor the yeast Saccharomyces – the two workhorse organisms of biotechnology – were able to produce 1,3-PDO.
But the Rice researchers discovered pathways and mechanisms that mediate glycerol fermentation in E. coli. That enabled their efforts to develop new technologies for converting glycerol into high-value chemicals. In essence, they designed strains of E. coli that could produce a range of products from biofuels, ethanol, hydrogen and organic acids.
As an example, Gonzalez’s team created a new version of the bacterium that produces up to 100 times more succinate, a high-demand chemical feedstock that’s used to make everything from noncorrosive airport deicers and nontoxic solvents to plastics, drugs and food additives. Most succinate today comes from nonrenewable fossil fuels.
These technologies are being licensed commercially so they can be brought to market. The SDA/NBB Glycerine Innovation Award recognizes outstanding achievement for research into new applications for glycerine, with particular emphasis on commercial viability. The Award, which includes a plaque and a $5,000 honorarium, was presented by the AOCS Industrial Oil Products Division during the AOCS Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

For more information on the honored research, contact Dr. Gonzalez at (713)-348-4893 or ramon.gonzalez@rice.edu.

The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA – www.cleaning101.com), the Home of the U.S. Cleaning Products Industry®, represents the $30 billion U.S. cleaning products market. SDA members include the formulators of soaps, detergents, and general cleaning products used in household, commercial, industrial and institutional settings; companies that supply ingredients and finished packaging for these products; and oleochemical producers. SDA and its members are dedicated to improving health and the quality of life through sustainable cleaning products and practices.