Japan: Algae Research at Kao

The algae research unit of Kao succeeded to find an enzyme that can produce a large number of medium chain fatty acids-the main components of natural fats and oils (e.g. palm kernel oils and coconut oils), which are raw materials for surfactants in detergents, shampoos, and other related products.

This finding presented a strong possibility that Kao could acquire a non-edible raw material source of fats and oils that is natural and not consumed as food. The company will pursue the technological development for the production of fats and oils from algae with the aim of technical production.

Reportedly, potential for algae to produce fats and oils is more than ten times that of such natural resources as palm. In recent years, many research cases are reported on production of fats and oils, containing C16 to 18 fatty acids as a main component, to acquire new raw materials for fuels (biofuels) in replacement of fossil fuels. However, surfactants in detergents and shampoos and the base substances of various raw materials are C12 to 14 medium chain fatty acids. Therefore, the conventional scope of research on algae could not have been sufficiently applied.

At the Eco Technology Research Center in the Wakayama Plant, the company found some strains that contained a large number of C12 medium chain fatty acids in C12 to 14 medium chain fatty acids through. The biotechnological research activity evolved from technologies involving enzymes for detergents.

Additionally, as a first in the field of algae, the company identified a novel acyl-ACP thioesterase with high specificity to medium chain fatty acids from the genus Nannochloropsis. Kao expects that these findings will dramatically accelerate the breeding development of algae for large-scale production of medium chain fatty acids.

These results will be presented at the 1st Asian Conference on Oleo Science (September 8 to 10, 2014; Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan; organized by Japan Oil Chemists‘ Society), the first conference of this kind in the entire Asian region.

Source: Kao Corporation