Green Phenol Development Co., Ltd. (GPD)

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About Green Phenol Development Co., Ltd. (GPD)

Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd. and RITE founded "Green Phenol Technology Research Association" in 2010. The purpose of this association is to develop technology for the production of green phenol from mixed sugars (C5 and C6 sugars) derived from non-food cellulosic biomass resources.

Because phenol itself has severe cytotoxicity, bioproduction of phenol has been thought to be a challenging task. With the support of NEDO (1), our association succeeded in green phenol production by constructing a "two step bioprocess". With the invention of this method, a good prospect has been seen for achieving the economical production of green phenol from sugars. Changing the raw materials of phenol from oil to non-food cellulosic biomass contributes to the reducing CO2 emissions and the spreading of "green chemicals".

To industrialize phenol bioproduction, "Green Phenol Technology Research Association" became "Green Phenol Development Co., Ltd." on May 27, 2014. With the aid of NEDO grant, we promote the research and development, and aim at the early practical use of the green phenol product supply (2).

Trade name Green Phenol Development Co., Ltd.
Location 9-2, Kizugawadai, Kizugawa-Shi, Kyoto
Representative Director Tomitaro Ogawa (Sumitomo Bakelite Senior Advisor)
Business outline Validation of green phenol production
Production and marketing of green phenol

(1) Green Phenol Technology Research Association performed the research "Development of Fundamental Technologies for Green and Sustainable Chemical Processes (FY2009-FY2010)" under entrustment from NEDO. GPD continues the research and development.

(2) We received the aid of NEDO grant "Innovation Commercialization Venture Support Project, Research and development for practical application of bioproduction of green phenol etc. from non-food biomass (FY2013)."

Strategy for the bioproduction of green phenol

“Two step bioprocess” for the economical production of green phenol

The main problem of phenol production by fermentation is the cytotoxicity. Therefore, high production of phenol by bioprocess has been believed to be extremely difficult. Our association overcame this problem by constructing a "two step bioprocess" described below.

1 The first reaction (high production of a precursor from sugars)

4-Hydroxybenzoate is a precursor candidate of phenol in the metabolic pathway of C. glutamicum, and the toxicity is relatively low compared to phenol. At the first bioprocess, a growth-arrested bioproduction enables to produce 4-hydroxybenzoate with high efficiency from mixed sugars (C5 and C6 sugars).

Growth-arrested bioprocess

Conventional bioprocesses

2. The second reaction (phenol production from the precursor)

4-Hydroxybenzoate is convertible to phenol in one step by decarboxylation reaction. We screened enzymes that catalyze decarboxylation of 4-hydroxybenzoate, and successfully obtained several genes encoding high efficient decarboxylases. We confirmed for the first time in the world that almost all 4-hydroxybenzoate was converted to phenol in short time by the second bioprocess using cells expressing the decarboxylases.

2. Application of green phenol

26% of phenol produced in the world is used to make phenolic resin and 50% of which is used to make bisphenol A. Green phenol produced by GPD will be used in the same application.

1.Phenolic resin

Phenolic resin is formed by an addition polymerization reaction of phenol and formaldehyde. It has various uses such as adhesives or structural parts. In automobile, it is used for motor brush holders, slip rings, cooling pump parts, clutch pistons, insulation gaskets, oil caps and brake pistons etc. Nowadays, phenolic resin becomes the materials which are indispensable for automobile-related products.
In the near future, weight-saving of automobiles is an urgent issue in relation to the emergence of hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles. It is expected that the demand of phenolic resin as a substitute for metal components will increase.

2.Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A also has wide-range of uses as a building block of polycarbonate (housewares, electronics, medical equipments, cellular phones, automobile parts, optical media, sheets or windows) or epoxy resin (coatings, lamination, encapsulating material for semiconductors or adhesives).).

Phenolic resin is an essential material for automobile parts.