Fermentation of Sugars to 1,2-Propanediol by Clostridium Thermosaccharolyticum

EPA Grant Number: R824726
Title: Fermentation of Sugars to 1,2-Propanediol by Clostridium Thermosaccharolyticum
Investigators: Cameron, Douglas C.
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 1, 1995 through September 30, 1997
Project Amount: $160,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (1995) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


The purpose of this project is to investigate the direct fermentation of sugars to 1,2-propanediol (1,2-PD; propylene glycol) by the anaerobic bacterium, Clostridium thermosaccharolyticum ATCC 31960. (It should be noted that since the start of this project the organism has been reclassified as Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum.) 1,2-PD is a major commodity chemical with an annual production in the US of over one billion pounds. Furthermore, the market for 1,2-PD is expected to grow at 4-6 percent per year through the year 2000. One growing application of 1,2-PD is as a less toxic replacement for ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. The current route to 1,2-PD involves the hydration of propylene oxide. Propylene oxide is produced from propylene, a non-renewable feedstock, by either the chlorohydrin process or the hydroperoxide process, both of which result in the formation of significant amounts of undesired co-products. Moreover, both routes result in the production of racemic 1,2-PD. T. thermosaccharolyticum ferments five and six carbon sugars such as D-xylose, L-arabinose and D-glucose to enantiomerically pure R-1,2-PD plus a mixture of ethanol and organic acids. Although the organism grows on D-galactose, preliminary studies using batch fermentations indicate that no 1,2-PD is produced from this sugar. Continuous culture experiments with several sugars will be done to determine what factors influence the selectivity and yield of R-1,2-PD. A stoichiometric model of the metabolic pathways involved in 1,2-PD production will be developed and used in conjunction with the continuous culture results for metabolic flux analysis. The overall goal of these studies is to provide the fundamental understanding needed for improving the 1,2-PD fermentation and ultimately developing a clean, economical process for the production of 1,2-PD from renewable feedstocks.

Supplemental Keywords:

Chemostat fermentation with glucose, galactose, phosphate, carbon; 1,2 propanediol; rat lens aldose reductase; glycerol dehydrogenase., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics and Business, organic acids, clostridium thermosaccharolyticum, sugar fermintation, antifreeze, Chemostate fermintation, propylene glycol, anaerobic bacterium

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1996
  • Final