Demonstrating Production of a Bio-Based Precursor to Nylon

A new collaboration between the Agile BioFoundry and Technology Holding will work on developing a bio-based replacement for a precursor to nylon. 

Nylon is ubiquitous in the textile industry. Currently, it’s made from petroleum sources, primarily using adipic acid as a precursor. 

This project will target biochemical production of beta-ketoadipic acid, which can be used to make a form of nylon that has several advantages over traditional nylon. Not only would the end product be more sustainable, it would also have other desirable properties, including better recycling characteristics.

The goal is to produce enough material that Technology Holding can then use to test with partners in the textile industry. 

The textile industry does not currently utilize nylon manufactured in this way, as traditional production methods are expensive. 

“We anticipate a bio-based platform will not only make it a more economical process, but just the fact it is bio-based will be a substantial attraction,” said Mukund Karanjikar, president of Technology Holding. 

Karanjikar said his team was interested in collaborating with the Agile BioFoundry because of the opportunity to pool together the expertise of multiple national laboratories. 

“Having that partnering opportunity while we de-risk the technology and advance the manufacturing readiness level is a great value addition,” he said. “We are very excited about the near term prototyping opportunity that exists here. This will . . . potentially help us scale up this molecule very fast.” 

This collaboration between the Agile BioFoundry and industry is one of six projects totaling over $5 million announced in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct research and development needed to accelerate the U.S. biomanufacturing sector. The Agile BioFoundry is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office.