Biomediated Production of Ethylene Glycol

Technology #15064

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Professor Gregory Stephanopoulos
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
External Link (
Brian Pereira
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
Deepak Dugar
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
Marjan De Mey
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
Jose Luis Avalos
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
Managed By
Jim Freedman
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Chemicals, Instruments, Consumer Products
Patent Protection

Engineering microbes and metabolic pathways for the production of ethylene glycol

US Patent Pending 2016-0076061
Engineering a novel biosynthetic pathway in Escherichia coli for production of renewable ethylene
Biotechnol. Bioeng., 2016 Feb;113(2):376-83
Efficient utilization of pentoses for bioproduction of the renewable two-carbon compounds ethylene glycol and glycolate
Metab Eng., 2016 Mar;34:80-7


This invention can be used to develop alternative methods to produce ethylene glycol -- an important compound used as feedstock for polymer production and as a coolant -- that does not use fossil fuels as a raw material.

Problem Addressed

Currently, ethylene glycol is produced from ethylene oxide, which is in turn derived from fossil fuels. Mounting issues such as price fluctuations, supply instability, and environmental concerns are driving the search for alternative methods to generate ethylene glycol. This invention provides an engineering scheme for the biomediated production of ethylene glycol from lignocellulosic biomass.


Methods to break down hemicellulose contained in biomass into simple 5-carbon sugars are well documented. This invention comprises an enzymatic reaction scheme to convert the simple sugars (e.g., xylose, arabinose, etc.) to ethylene glycol in three stages. First, the sugar is cleaved enzymatically into glycolaldehyde and dihydroxyacetone phosphate. Second, dihydroxyacetone -- a byproduct from the cleavage in the first step -- is converted into glycolaldehyde. Finally, the glycolaldehyde generated in the previous two stages is enzymatically reduced to ethylene glycol.

The enzymes necessary to catalyze each step in the process are expressed in genetically engineered bacteria. In proof-of-concept trials, the Inventors have demonstrated the conversion of D-arabinose and D-xylose to ethylene glycol with up to 35% yield (by mass).


  • Produces ethylene glycol from renewable feedstock
  • Able to utilize a number of different pentose sugars