-/Monika Klick
Institute of Agricultural Technology

Bundesallee 47
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 4102/ 4103
Fax: +49 531 596 4199

Fumaric Acid for Polymers


Fumarsäure für Polymere (c) Thünen-Institut
Fumarsäure für Polymere (© Thünen-Institut)

Production of fumaric acid for polymer applications

Fumaric acid is an interesting building block for bio-based polymers. We are searching together with European partners for an efficient biotechnological production of fumaric acid from agricultural raw materials and residues.

Background and Objective

Fumaric acid, an unsaturated dicarboxylic acid, currently is produced exclusively in petrochemical plants from fossil feedstocks. Fumaric acid is currently used in many different applications (50 % in polymer industry, 33 % in

food industry, 17 % mainly for feed and pharmaceutical purposes). The replacement of petrochemical derived fumaric acid by its bio-based counterpart, derived from fermentation with fungi, e.g. Rhizopus spp., from renewables is of great interest in all industrial application fields in order to reduce the current carbon footprint of the products and to promote transition to a bio-based economy.

The biotechnological production of fumaric acid is still ineffective in comparison to other industrial fermentation processes of carboxylic acids, e.g. citric, lactic, succinic and itaconic acid.

Hence, we together with European partners from Germany, Spain and Turkey aim at the development of an efficient and economic fermentation process to produce fumaric acid from renewables in this ERA-IB project.


Apple pomace, the solid residue of apple juice production, shall be the primary substrate for fumaric acid production in the research carried out in the Thünen-Institute, whereas orange peels shall be investigated by our Spanish partners. In comparison, also pure glucose shall be used as substrate. Both apple pomace and orange peels needs to be pretreated and hydrolyzed, i.e. saccharified, prior to be used as substrate. Therefore tailor-made enzymes will be developed by our partner ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH.

The fermentative fumaric acid production from the two agricultural residuals will be tested in two variants, as separate hydrolysis and fermentation (SHF) and as simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) variant. After the screening for suitable microorganisms with high tolerance against the substrates and a low product inhibition both variants will be compared to. The most promising variant shall be further improved with regard to yield and productivity by intelligent and innovative process control means.

Further on, new efficient down-stream processes for fumaric acid recovery shall be developed. The isolated fumaric acid will be evaluated for polymer applications. The different value-added chains under research in this project will be analyzed by life cycle assessment (LCA) to figure out the most sustainable one.


The project aims at the development of an efficient and economic process for the production of fumaric acid from renewables. Thereby, not only the current petrochemical-based fumaric acid may be substituted by its bio-based counterpart, but if may additionally offer a perspective to further enlarge its use in polymers at the expense of the competing petrochemical monomer maleic acid.


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • ASA-Spezialenzyme GmbH
    (Wolfenbüttel, Deutschland)
  • Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)
    (Madrid, Spanien)
  • Biopolis SA
    (Valencia, Spanien)
  • Ekodenge AS
    (Ankara, Türkei)
  • UBE Corporation Europe S.A.
    (Castellón, Spanien)

Funding Body

  • Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (FNR)
    (national, öffentlich)


4.2016 - 5.2019

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 22029515
Funding program: FNR
Project status: finished

Funding Body:

Logo FNR