Professor Lee Sang-yup and his research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) succeeded, for the first time worldwide, in biosynthesizing terephthalic acid by using E. coli. The project was carried out as a part of the Global Frontier Project of the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning of South Korea.
Terephthalic acid, which is a main raw material for the production of polyester fibers and so on, is currently produced through industrial chemical processes. These processes are characterized by consuming a large amount of energy and being harmful to the environment because toxic catalysts have to be used during the processes.
On the other hand, the terephthalic acid production method developed by the team is very friendly to the environment and its production efficiency exceeds those of the previous methods as well. The new method has an important meaning in that terephthalic acid, which has a wide range of applications ranging from fibers and PET bottles to auto parts, can be produced in quantity and in an eco-friendly way by the use of E. coli.
Details of the research have been published in the May 31 online edition of the Nature Communications journal.