1,3-Propanediol (1,3-PD) production by fermentation of glycerol was described in 1881 but little attention was paid to this microbial route for over a century. Glycerol conversion to 1,3-PD can be carried out by Clostridia as well as Enterobacteriaceae. The main intermediate of the oxidative pathway is pyruvate, the further utilization of which produces CO2, H2, acetate, butyrate, ethanol, butanol and 2,3-butanediol. In addition, lactate and succinate are generated. The yield of 1,3-PD per glycerol is determined by the availability of NADH2, which is mainly affected by the product distribution (of the oxidative pathway) and depends first of all on the microorganism used but also on the process conditions (type of fermentation, substrate excess, various inhibitions). In the past decade, research to produce 1,3-PD microbially was considerably expanded as the diol can be used for various polycondensates. In particular, polyesters with useful properties can be manufactured. A prerequisite for making a “green” polyester is a more cost-effective production of 1,3-PD, which, in practical terms, can only be achieved by using an alternative substrate, such as glucose instead of glycerol. Therefore, great efforts are now being made to combine the pathway from glucose to glycerol successfully with the bacterial route from glycerol to 1,3-PD. Thus, 1,3-PD may become the first bulk chemical produced by a genetically engineered microorganism.
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