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article imageRenewable artificial flavors and scents created by scientists

By Stephanie Medeiros     Mar 11, 2014 in Science
A majority of artificial flavorings, scents, and even paint are created through a process that involving oil and gas, but scientists are in the works of making renewable fake flavorings and scents.
There is a bacteria known to make something called esters, or the molecules derived from creating fake flavors and scents as well as being a type of feedstock during chemical processes to create paints and even fuels. These are the same fake flavorings found in snack foods or scents in perfumes and a small group of researchers and scientists are using this bacteria in order to engineer something much more efficient, and most of all, renewable.
Almost all fake flavorings, scents, paints, and other materials come from oil and gas. Unfortunately, that is not a renewable resource and can turn into an expensive process to create all the artificial flavorings and scents in a $20 billion worldwide industry, explains Shota Atsumi of the department of chemistry at the University of California, Davis and the lead scientist in engineering renewable fake flavorings and scents.
According to Futurity, esters happen when "two chains of carbon atoms are linked through an oxygen atom. [Esters] are made chemically by reacting an alcohol with an organic acid." However, it is much easier to break apart an ester than to try and create one. Atsumi is looking toward naturally forming esters, like the ones created in yeast that give flavoring to beer, as a source for his research.
Naturally-occurring esters are not in the same abundance as the laboratory created methods, however. The esters that yeast creates are very small in number and only gives beer a slight natural flavoring.
Atsumi has been working alongside researcher Yohei Tashiro and graduate student Gabriel Rodriguez and combining yeast genes with E. coli bacteria by tweaking certain "pathways" found in them so the team could successfully manually manipulate one half of the ester. Scientists in the future could easily go into these pathways and "turn off" or manipulate certain enzymes in the esters.
The goal is to have these enzymes and pathways placed in renewable biological systems, such as single-celled organisms or algae. Currently, Atsumi has a patent on his production method. The team's findings and the goals of the research were published in the March issue of Nature Chemical Biology.
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