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Acrylic glass made of sugar
Date:11/13/2008

the products desired. Until now, the only way to produce this precursor - 2-hydroxyisobutyrate (2-HIBA) - was a purely chemical process based on petrochemical raw materials. The chemicals industry worldwide is searching for suitable biological processes, so that in future, renewable raw materials can also be used as a basis for MMA synthesis. The mutase presented here provides the solution: an enzyme which shifts a functional group from one position to another within a molecule. While in a post-doc position at the UFZ's Department of Environmental Microbiology, Dr Thore Rohwerder and his mentor Dr Roland H. Mller discovered the enzyme in a newly isolated bacterial strain they found while searching for bacteria to break down the pollutant MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether).

The reason attributed by the awards judges to the industrial importance of the discovery was that altogether, in the medium to long term, up to ten percent of today's demand for MMA could feasibly be produced by biotechnological means. The world market is over 3 million tonnes / 4 billion euro. It will take about four years to establish the bacterial system in a functioning technological process (pilot plant). In about ten years, a technological process is then conceivable, with an annual turnover of 150 to 400 million euro.

PMMA is a synthetic plastic developed in 1928 and today produced in great quantities. PMMA is often known colloquially as acrylic glass, as it is mainly used as a shatterproof, lightweight alternative to glass - for example, in protective goggles or vehicle lights. PMMA has many applications, including prosthetics, paints and adhesives. It is also sold under the brand names "Plexiglas" (Evonik) and "Altuglas" (Arkema). In the GDR, names used for this plastic included "O-Glas" (for "organic glass") or "Piacryl" (named after the old producer in the GDR, Piesteritz nitrogen works near Wittenberg). The plastic is fragile, but very UV-resistant and thus weatherpr
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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