KAIST Unveils Eco-Friendly Strategies for Polyamides Production

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

- Provides current research trends in bio-based polyamide production

- Research on bio-based polyamides production gains importance for achieving a carbon-neutral society

Global industries focused on carbon neutrality, under the slogan "Net-Zero," are gaining increasing attention. In particular, research on microbial production of polymers, replacing traditional chemical methods with biological approaches, is actively progressing.

Polyamides, represented by nylon, are linear polymers widely used in various industries such as automotive, electronics, textiles, and medical fields. They possess beneficial properties such as high tensile strength, electrical insulation, heat resistance, wear resistance, and biocompatibility. Since the commercialization of nylon in 1938, approximately 7 million tons of polyamides are produced worldwide annually. Considering their broad applications and significance, producing polyamides through bio-based methods holds considerable environmental and industrial importance.

KAIST (President Kwang-Hyung Lee) announced that a research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee, including Dr. Jong An Lee and doctoral candidate Ji Yeon Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, published a paper titled "Current Advancements in Bio-Based Production of Polyamides". The paper was featured on the cover of the monthly issue of "Trends in Chemistry" by Cell Press.

As part of climate change response technologies, bio-refineries involve using biotechnological and chemical methods to produce industrially important chemicals and biofuels from renewable biomass without relying on fossil resources. Notably, systems metabolic engineering, pioneered by KAIST's Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee, is a research field that effectively manipulates microbial metabolic pathways to produce valuable chemicals, forming the core technology for bio-refineries. The research team has successfully developed high-performance strains producing a variety of compounds, including succinic acid, biodegradable plastics, biofuels, and natural products, using systems metabolic engineering tools and strategies.

The research team predicted that if bio-based polyamide production technology, which is widely used in the production of clothing and textiles, becomes widespread, it will attract attention as a future technology that can respond to the climate crisis due to its environment-friendly production technology. In this study, the research team comprehensively reviewed the bio-based polyamide production strategies. They provided insights into the advancements in polyamide monomer production using metabolically engineered microorganisms and highlighted the recent trends in bio-based polyamide advancements utilizing these monomers. Additionally, they reviewed the strategies for synthesizing bio-based polyamides through chemical conversion of natural oils and discussed the biodegradability and recycling of the polyamides. Furthermore, the paper presented the future direction in which metabolic engineering can be applied for the bio-based polyamide production, contributing to environmentally friendly and sustainable society.

Ji Yeon Kim, the co-first author of this paper from KAIST, stated "The importance of utilizing systems metabolic engineering tools and strategies for bio-based polyamides production is becoming increasingly prominent in achieving carbon neutrality."

Professor Sang Yup Lee emphasized, "Amid growing concerns about climate change, the significance of environmentally friendly and sustainable industrial development is greater than ever. Systems metabolic engineering is expected to have a significant impact not only on the chemical industry but also in various fields."

Figure 1

This paper by Dr. Jong An Lee, PhD student Ji Yeon Kim, Dr. Jung Ho Ahn, and Master Yeah-Ji Ahn from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST was published in the December issue of 'Trends in Chemistry', an authoritative review journal in the field of chemistry published by Cell. It was published on December 7 as the cover paper and featured review.

※ Paper title: Current advancements in the bio-based production of polyamides

※ Author information: Jong An Lee, Ji Yeon Kim, Jung Ho Ahn, Yeah-Ji Ahn, and Sang Yup Lee

This research was conducted with the support from the development of platform technologies of microbial cell factories for the next-generation biorefineries project and C1 gas refinery program by Korean Ministry of Science and ICT.

Figure 2

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