A plastic with high demand
The expected worldwide consumption of styrene, an important building block for many plastics, is expected to increase to 41 million tons in 2020. The vast majority of styrene is currently derived from crude oil, which releases already fixated carbon back into the environment and costs energy to refine and produce. This has a negative impact on the environment.
A better source
Cellulose is not only an important component of trees and therefore wood, but also of many plants and algae and can therefore be found in the waste streams generated by agricultural and industrial processes. So far cellulose has been relatively difficult to biodegrade, preventing it from being used to its full potential.
Where we come in
We aim to engineer a yeast strain that is able to degrade cellulose into glucose and produces styrene as an end product. The first step in our project is equipping our yeast strain with a protein complex that breaks down cellulose into glucose.
The next step in our project concerns the production of styrene. For this we can mostly rely on an endogenous pathway. We will introduce the PAL2 enzyme from A. Thaliana which converts phenylalanine to trans-cinnamate which is finally converted by the cell to styrene.
A brighter future
If our project succeeds we simultaneously would be able to lower the dependency on fossil fuels for styrene production and take the first important steps towards the creation of a bio-based economy