TOKYO — Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. (YRC) is claiming a research initiative it is part of has developed the world's first technology capable of producing butadiene — a core building block of synthetic rubber used in tires — efficiently from a biomass.
The breakthrough was achieved by the "Bio-monomer Production Laboratory," a research initiative jointly established with the independent RIKEN Physical & Chemical Research Institute and Zeon Corp., Yokohama said.
Industrial butadiene is produced predominantly as a by-product of naphtha pyrolysis, YRC said, and as such developing an independent butadiene production technology would help reduce dependence on petroleum and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a major cause of global warming.
YRC claims the venture's joint research team has succeeded in creating cells with butadiene-producing ability using new artificial pathways and enzymes.
This approach makes it possible to go through cheaper intermediates than conventional metabolic pathways, YRC said, thereby opening the door to reducing the cost of butadiene fermentative production.
YRC, RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) and Zeon have been cooperating in joint research on this topic since 2013.
Tokyo-based RIKEN established a Bio-monomer Production Laboratory in April 2020, YRC said, and has been accelerating research under its "Integrated Collaborative Research Program with Industry" that will achieve deliverables needed by society.
The team plans to conduct research to establish more highly productive enzymes and an efficient purification technology by organically fusing the know-how and technologies of all three partners. The team already has succeeded in producing polybutadiene rubber from the butadiene produced by the world's first fermentation production using this new technology, YRC said.
The team's research results will be published on April 13 in Nature Communications, an online journal that publishes research from all areas of the natural sciences.
RIKEN is Japan's only comprehensive research institution for the natural sciences. RIKEN CSRS is dedicated to the realization of a sustainable society through its research in the field of biological functions, especially its basic research on the effective use of plant-microorganism bioprocesses.
Zeon is a leading manufacturer of synthetic rubber that places its research emphasis on polymerization catalyst technology and enhancing the performance of its SR products.