Algae are one of the major fields of investigation of Kao’s research program on advanced sustainable use biomass, conducted at the company’s Eco Technology Research Centre in Wakayama, Japan. The Japanese cosmetics maker recently announced to have found how some algae can produce a large number of C12 to 14 medium chain fatty acids and to have identified the enzyme that plays a key role within the process. These fatty acids are the main components of natural fats and oils, such as palm kernel oils and coconut oils, which are raw materials for surfactants in detergents or shampoos.
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.
The Japanese company expects that these findings will dramatically accelerate the breeding development of algae for large-scale production of medium chain fatty acids thus providing a large source of fats and oils that are “natural and not consumed as food”. Kao therefore intends to pursue technological development in this field, with the aim to achieve industrial production. According to the company, algae would be potentially more than ten times more productive than the most efficient alternative natural sources of fats and oils, such as oil palms.
These results will be presented at the 1st Asian Conference on Oleo Science, which will be held on September 8 to 10, 2014 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan.