Malic acid is part of your daily life

31 March 2022 | Idoia Company Marin

Introduction


Malic acid has been reported as one of the top value-added platform chemicals available from biomass1. Platform chemicals are molecules that can be used to produce a variety of industrially valuable products including foods, pharmaceuticals, solvents and polymers. Although most of them are mass-produced from fossil fuels, the global concerns about the environment and the limited resources, are triggering the shift from petrochemical to a biotechnological production of these chemicals. Recent biotechnological advances show the production of malic acid on an industrial scale, which can be used for different applications, as you will be able to find out in this article2.

malic acid

What is Malic Acid and why is so important?


Malic Acid is an organic acid that can be produced naturally by some microorganisms and plants. For example, it is one of the most common organic acids in fruits like apples and bananas. Despite occurring naturally, commercially available malic acid is produced and used as an acidulant and taste enhancer in the food and beverage industry. Specifically, it is present in various products including candies, soft drinks and bakery products. It is furthermore used in personal care products and in the pharmaceutical sector, for example, as compound of migraine drugs3.

Nowadays, malic acid is chemically produced from fossil resources such as natural gas and petroleum through a highly contaminant process. Nevertheless, it can potentially be produced by alternative biotechnological methods, which are more environmentally friendly. These methods employ renewable substrates and microorganisms that can be genetically modified to optimize the production of acid malic. Currently, malic acid production from renewable resources is still not able to compete with low-priced and well-established chemical production methods. However, research in this field is ongoing, and the utilization of inexpensive industrial waste or side-streams has a promising prospective.


Examples of products made from Malic Acid


Biotechnologically produced malic acid may become an important platform chemical with new applications, especially in the field of biopolymers4

  • Malic acid can be converted into tetrahydrofuran, an important high-value product and starting material for polymer and resin production.
  • A large variety of polymers can be obtained, which can be used as drug carriers to treat different diseases owing to their biocompatibility and biodegradability.
  • It can also be used as a solvent and food additive in numerous pharmaceutical synthesis procedures.
  • It is used for the production of flexible and elastic fibers, rubber, adhesives and printing inks.

Closing


Here we show you a bunch of products made from malic acid that are probably part of your daily life. If you want to know more about platform chemicals and how important they can be to us, check our next article about biofuels: Bioethanol, a carbon dioxide neutral energy source.

You might wonder how it is possible to convert plants into malic acid or other high-value products. Biotechnology is the answer! Check out our articles about biorefineries and green chemistry to find out more about it.

Bibliography
1. Jang, Y. S. et al. Bio-based production of C2-C6 platform chemicals. Biotechnology and Bioengineering (2012) doi:10.1002/bit.24599.
2. Bozell, J. J. & Petersen, G. R. Technology development for the production of biobased products from biorefinery carbohydrates—the US Department of Energy’s “top 10” revisited. Green Chem. (2010) doi:10.1039/b922014c.
3. Kövilein, A., Kubisch, C., Cai, L. & Ochsenreither, K. Malic acid production from renewables: a review. J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol. 95, 513–526 (2020).
4. Mandair, R., Karagoz, P. & Bill, R. M. A redox-neutral, two-enzyme cascade for the production of malate and gluconate from pyruvate and glucose. Appl. Sci. 11, (2021).