Innovation That Matters

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Could 'zombie' cells turn wood waste into nylon?

Fashion & Beauty

A new method enables the plastic to be produced without fossil fuels

Spotted: It’s estimated that the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels for plastic production alone generates up to 12.5 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. Finding eco-friendlier ways of producing plastic is an intense area of innovation, and OzoneBio is one of the many startups operating in this space. 

Current production of petroleum-derived adipic acid, a crucial building block of nylon 6,6, releases large volumes of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas around 300 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period. Using their expertise in biochemistry, OzoneBio founders Khorcheska Batyrova and Anna Khusnutdinova created a unique biocatalytic method to produce adipic acid emissions-free, using ‘zombie’ cells. 

Instead of petroleum, OzoneBio uses bio-based substrates, namely wood waste-derived chemicals, as feedstock. Key to the technology are novel enzymes, which are kept stable within cells that are not kept alive or allowed to die – they’re instead kept in an intermediate state as ‘zombie’ cells. These enzymes continuously convert the natural feedstock into bio-adipic acid, which the founders say is “indistinguishable” from oil-based alternatives. This adipic acid can then be turned into the company’s bio-nylon, called OzoNyl. 

The founders told Springwise, “We remain the only company in the world who ever succeeded in producing wood-derived bio-adipic acid/nylon 6,6 at 99 per cent purity and certified it as fully bio-based.” 

Springwise has spotted other bio-based plastic replacements, including ones made using milk protein and macroalgae

Written By: Archie Cox and Matilda Cox



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