Microbes Produce High Yields of Fatty Alcohols from Glucose

Brian Pfleger, J. Tyler Youngquist

Fatty alcohols are used in detergents, emulsifiers, lubricants and personal care items. More than 1.3 million tons of fatty alcohols are used worldwide each year, representing a $3 billion market. Currently, fatty alcohols are produced either through the processing of natural fats and oils or from petrochemicals. As both routes require biodiesel or petrochemical fuel stocks, microbial production of fatty alcohols from renewable sugars is a promising alternative. To be economically competitive, microorganism-based methods must boost titers and yields.

The Invention

UW–Madison researchers have developed a method to produce fatty alcohols such as 1-dodecanol and 1-tetradecanol from glucose using genetically engineered microorganisms. The organism, e.g., a modified E. coli strain, overexpresses several genes (including FadD and a recombinant thioesterase gene, acyl-CoA synthetase gene and acyl-CoA reductase gene). Other gene products are functionally deleted to maximize performance. The strain is cultured in a bioreactor in the presence of glucose.

Key Benefits
  • Some of the highest yields ever reported using E. coli and glucose
  • Other organisms such as yeast or Gram-positive bacteria may be used.
  • Production of fatty alcohols for biofuels (e.g., jet fuel) or specialty chemicals
Stage of Development

The modified E.coli strain is capable of generating yields higher than 0.13 grams of fatty alcohol per gram of consumed glucose.

Technology Contact

For current licensing status, please contact Jennifer Gottwald at jennifer@warf.org or (608) 262-5941.

Sustainable Biomass Conversion