Company initiatives, Processing, Products, R&D

Modular Genetics Demonstrates Bio-Glycinate Production

The blog has encountered Modular Genetics once or twice in the past three years but has never looked deep into the company’s activities in the biobased surfactants area. Modular’s lead product is their patented acyl glutamate surfactants initially targeted to the personal care market.

Acyl glutamate is an amino acid-based surfactant produced via fermentation. Modular has also recently demonstrate production of another amino acid surfactant called acyl glycinate. I am not that familiar with amino acid surfactants as I usually cover the traditional lipids-based or even glycolipids-based materials but  these products are not new to the market.

Ajinomoto for one is already marketing amino acid surfactants for personal care using L-glutamic acid, glycine, L-alanine  or L-arginine, which are then combined with natural fatty acids.

Here are some of the amino acid surfactant materials currently used in the market:

Source: Chalmers University – Goteborg/SEPAWA

Modular Genetics said its key goal is to demonstrate that synthetic biology can be used to produce additional new surfactants beyond acyl glutamate. The company announced this week that it has been able to demonstrate bio-production of acyl glycinate surfactant where it used its “green” purification method to purify the surfactant.

The company shipped a sample of the surfactant for customer evaluation. Modular said its colleagues at Unilever confirmed the identity of the glycinate and confirmed its high-purity level. Unilever said its R&D unit has been proactive in reaching out to suppliers, manufacturers and start-ups that can make materials like glycinate-based amino acid surfactants through “green processes.”

Ajinomoto’s glycine is currently manufactured by chemical synthesis from formaldehyde or monochloroacetic acid and ammonia. Most of current large-scale commercial amino acid production actually uses chemical synthesis.

Unilever said it currently uses glycinate surfactant synthesized by conventional processes in personal care applications.

“Use of glycinate synthesized by microbial fermentation represents a significant advance towards our sustainability goals.” – Unilever R&D

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


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