Chemistry in Pictures: Homebrew

This fermenter was designed to brew beer, a nice bit of kit for the homebrew set. But w hen the industrial biotechnology firm C16 Biosciences was just starting out, this little guy was what they could swing for their first step-up from bench scale. So they gave it some googly eyes, named it ‘Spike,’ and got to work. C16 uses fermentation to make a 1:1 replacement for palm oil, a prized ingredient in personal care and food products, as well as a core starting material for detergents.

“It’s not the right piece of equipment, but it was all we could afford,” says CEO Shara Ticku, “We just cranked out product from that thing to be able to hold up a cup on demo day and say, ‘This is palm oil, but it’s made from yeast, not trees.’ And we were able to raise $4 million in a two-week period on the back of that. So that ended up being very valuable because it helped kickstart the company; helped us file our first patent, hire our first team.”

Credit: Craig Bettenhausen/C&EN

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