In the last decades, the palm oil industry increased on an extreme level and, because of great demand, it still does. The main product from the palm plant, palm oil and palm kernel oil, are not dispensable in today´s society. Because of their characteristic properties, they are widely used in food-, material-, beauty- and fuel industry. A lot of products of our daily lives are dependent on the use of the oil as raw material and finding a natural substitute is very difficult due to its composition and the efficiency of the oil plant. With more than 80 %, Malaysia and Indonesia are leading the worldwide production of the oil, not always using sustainable methods. The consequences for the environment are devastating: The deforestation of the rainforest not only leads to increasing CO2 emissions, but also robs numerous animal and plant species of their habitat. Furthermore, social injustice and land conflicts are daily fare.
The aim of our project: We want to find a way to produce palm kernel oil using microorganisms, especially E. coli. Our goal is to retain most of the positive traits from the natural product, which causes the oil to be such an essential resource for industry. The production of fatty acids and their esterification to triacylglycerides as energy storage is a natural process in all organisms. We make use of this natural way of synthesis by modifying the expression of fatty acids with appropriate carbohydrate chain length on a molecular level. The overall combustion of the triacylglycerides represents the main characteristics of the products. Palm kernel oil mainly consist out of saturated fatty acids (~80%) with Lauric acid, a C12 fatty acid, as main component. Because of this unique lipid pattern it mainly differs from the palm oil itself.