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October 21, 2002
Volume 80, Number 42
CENEAR 80 42 p. 14
ISSN 0009-2347


BIOTECHNOLOGY

CORN CHEMISTRY
DuPont lands big government grant, comes close to new route to fiber

RICK MULLIN

On separate but related fronts, DuPont is making headway in efforts to develop processes for low-cost chemical production from corn.

8042NOTW2sorona
NEW CROP Sonora fiber is one step closer to biotech production.
DUPONT PHOTO
DuPont and several research partners have been awarded an $18.3 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop a biorefinery for ethanol production, according to a statement released by Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.). DuPont will match the grant with $18.9 million in company funds, according to Castle.

DuPont's project came out on top of what Castle calls "stiff grant competition" among about 200 applications to DOE. The company's Integrated Corn-Based Bioproducts Refinery project involves the development of a refinery that would ferment corn and corn biomass into sugars to produce ethanol.

Biocatalysis specialist Diversa is working with DuPont on the project, designing an enzyme to work in DuPont's process. The plant would also be used to produce 1,3-propanediol (PDO), used in the production of DuPont's Sorona 3GT fiber.

A DuPont representative confirmed receipt of the R&D grant, but said the company would not comment further until DOE announces the award on Oct. 28.

Separately, DuPont and Genencor last week said they reached a technology milestone in the development of a microbe that produces PDO. The two have combined DNA from several different microorganisms into one production strain, resulting in a 500-fold increase in bioprocessing productivity, according to DuPont.

DuPont currently makes PDO synthetically in Kinston, N.C. A pilot plant for the biotech route compound is operated by A. E. Staley, a division of Tate & Lyle, in Decatur, Ill.

Commercial-scale biotech production will begin when market economics justify the investment, but a site for the plant has not been selected, DuPont says.



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[C&EN, May 21, 2001]

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