Engineered Microorganisms for the Production of Intermediates and Final Products

Stage: Development

The oil and petrochemical industry produce vital chemical building blocks beyond traditional energy needs. The chemicals derived from this industry play a vital role in the manufacture of polymers and, ultimately, plastics. Plastics have become indispensable in our modern economy. Many of these compounds are composed of aromatic rings, which if enzymatically cleaved would generate novel chemical matter with applications in polymer and biopolymer production.

Researchers at NREL and ORNL developed genetically modified microorganisms that are capable of producing polymers and polymer intermediates. These organisms are modified to lack key enzymes in the pathways responsible for the breakdown of aromatic compounds. By lacking these enzymes, the microorganisms are unable to fully degrade these compounds at various stages. This leads to the accumulation of potentially useful intermediates. Additionally, these organisms can be modified to include non-native enzymes, leading to the generation of even more novel chemical intermediates. NREL researchers have successfully demonstrated that these organisms are both viable and capable of making potentially useful molecular compounds from base components of petrochemical matter.

For more information about Engineered Microorganisms for the Production of Intermediates and Final Products, please contact Eric Payne at

ROI 18-76

Applications and Industries

  • Polymer manufacture
  • Petrochemical waste disposal and management
  • Biopolymer/recycling management
  • Advanced materials manufacture and testing


  • Ease of use/genetic modification of prokaryotic organisms
  • Repurposes waste products from industry
  • Immense novel chemical space generated
  • Can be used in combination with one another to generate additional novel products