Trioxane is chemically produced at large scale from methane via syngas, methanol and formaldehyde (see figure below). Trioxane can thus be considered as a storage molecule into which these C1-compounds can be funneled.
Sustainability and circularity
Trioxane as a feedstock offers very promising opportunities in the utilization of large waste streams and in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Non-food biomass, municipal wastes, industrial off-gases like CO, CO2 and associated gas (methane) can be funneled into the trioxane production chain (see figure above). Wastes such as non-food biomass and industrial off-gases, can also be fed into trioxane via syngas.
Economics of trioxane production
The chemical production of trioxane from formaldehyde currently is mainly directed towards the manufacturing of polyoxymethylene (POM). POM is an important engineering thermoplastic with a large number of applications in the automotive and mechanical engineering industries at more than 500.000 tons per year.
It is a prerequisite that trioxane in POM synthesis is free of water and ultra-clean. These criteria obviously do not apply to trioxane as fermentation feedstock. Consequently, the manufacturing cost of trioxane for biotechnological purposes will be relatively cheap, since product recovery will be more straightforward.
The group of Prof. Hans Hasse at the University of Kaiserslautern in a collaborative project is evaluating a concept for a new process for trioxane production as adapted to the requirements of its use as a fermentation feedstock. An important aspect of this exercise is that the economics of this process are such that it can compete with the price of regular sugar as feedstock.