Biotechnology In The Chemical Industry

Biotechnology has been one of the fastest-growing and most innovative fields of science in recent years. It holds the potential to enhance preventative medicine, cure diseases, and truly improve the quality of life in many respects.
Biotechnology In The Chemical Industry

Biotechnology In The Chemical Industry

Written By: Christopher Mohler

Biotechnology has been one of the fastest-growing and most innovative fields of science in recent years. It holds the potential to enhance preventative medicine, cure diseases, and truly improve the quality of life in many respects. While it is considered by many to be a blend of biology/medication and technology, biotechnology is really a fusion of several different scientific disciplines. A more complete description of biotechnology would be- “the application of life sciences to chemical synthesis”. The pivotal role of biotechnology in the chemical industry in biotechnology is merely another way in which chemistry touches upon an extraordinary variety of industries worldwide.

Specialty Chemicals

The chemical industry includes three main categories: basic chemicals, specialty chemicals, and consumer chemicals. Of the three, speciality chemicals have the most direct role in biotechnology. The early roots of biotechnology can be traced all the way back a century ago to the days World War I. In 1916, factories in England were feeding mashed corn and potato starches to a form of bacteria called clostridium acetobutylicum. This method- now known as the ABE Process- created a mixture of propanone, ethanol, and butanol. Cordite, a key ingredient in munitions equipment, contained propanone. The ABE Process was a stirring success, at one point ranking second only to ethanol production as the largest industrial application fermentation in the U.K.

Batch Reactors and Industrial Mixing

Although the ABE Process has been surpassed and is now antiquated compared to more recent, modern methods; fermentation continues to be one of the primary ways in which the speciality chemical industry supplies biotechnology with vital goods. Batch reactors are one of the most widely-used vessels fermentation processes in specialty chemical manufacturing. They actually fulfill numerous different roles and purposes in the process industries in general. The batch reactors found in speciality chemical plants and other facilities producing supplies for biotechnology applications are designed to be exceptionally sterile and sanitary. A batch reactor typically consists of the vessel itself, source of power {an engine or motor}, a drive shaft, and some type of impeller. The impeller is used to combine the individual ingredients together into an appropriate mixture. Batch reactors are often built of stainless steel, due to its impressive array of unique chemical properties. Stainless steel is exceptionally resistant to corrosion, contamination, heat, and much more. Also, properly maintaining stainless steel vessels can allow them to be used with success for long periods of time.

Common Speciality Chemicals Used In Biotechnology

Citric acid, lactic acid, amino acids, and others are some of the common speciality chemicals used in biotechnology.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is used by major industries like detergents and soaps, food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and beverages. The beverage industry accounts for a whopping 51% of global citric acid sales. It functions as both a flavoring and a preservative. When combined with sodium-hydrogen-carbonate, it can be used to manufacture medications like aspirin and antacids. Additionally, it is added to soaps to regulate the pH balance and create foam. The synthesization of citric acid begins with a fungus from the Aspergillus family, grown in sucrose and glucose; which in turn creates citric acid. It is then precipitated with a compound called calcium hydroxide to form calcium citrate {a salt}. The salt is rinsed away, after which the citric acid is regenerated by the use of sulfuric acid. At the end of this process, citric acid is finished.

Lactic Acid

Another acid manufactured for the biotechnology purposes by the speciality chemical industry is lactic acid. Like citric acid, lactic acid is used by the food/beverage industry and the personal care industry; but it is also a major supplier of the polymer industry, which is an extremely significant trade in its own right. Lactic acid is often used to manufacture biodegradable types of polymer. Sugars- specifically corn syrup and cane sugar- are the main ingredients in the synthesization of lactic acid. It is fermented via the lactobacillus bacteria.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are just another example of a product synthesized by speciality chemical manufacturers for the biotechnology industry. One of the most important functions of amino acids is the fact that linear chains of amino acids are a basic element of protein growth. In addition to protein formation; amino acids are also used as additives in food, ingredients in animal feed, and in the pharmaceutical industry as well. They’re synthesized by the fermentation of sugars combined with chemical compounds containing nitrogen. Ammonia is one example of such a substance. Specifically genetically modified forms of bacteria are added, and the chain of reactions that occurs between all these chemicals will eventually form amino acids. Most manufactured amino acids are composed of two isomers with different chemical properties in biological reactions with one another. At this point, they still have to be purified in order to be suitable for use. Purification methods are discovered by biotechnology research.

The Future of Biotechnology In The Chemical Industry

The three speciality chemicals discussed above and the fermentation process are hardly scratching the surface in describing the impact of chemistry and biotechnology as it stands now. Let alone its potential in the future. Both of these industries of science are increasingly essential to life of all forms around the world. Mixer Direct manufactures industrial processing equipment like mixers, stainless steel tanks, and control systems. The staff at Mixer Direct is experienced in developing custom systems for a wide variety of different applications, and strives to unlock Earth’s resources to reach its full potential.


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