Headquarters: Houston, Texas
Solugen is a groundbreaking technology company on a bold mission to decarbonize the physical world. At the heart of its innovation is the world’s first sustainable molecule factory—the Bioforge. This unique manufacturing platform uses a chemienzymatic process to convert plant-derived substances into essential materials that have historically been made from fossil fuels—all with no or low emissions and waste. A highly scalable and localized alternative to conventional approaches, the Bioforge enables Solugen to produce a range of high-performance, cost-competitive, and sustainable solutions to meet the diverse needs of its customers.
Chemical manufacturing stands as a major contributor to direct carbon emissions within the industrial landscape. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the production of base chemicals emits approximately one billion metric tons of direct greenhouse gas emissions annually. The pervasive use of carbon-intensive chemicals, such as plastics, fertilizers, and cement, underscores the ubiquity of these emissions in society’s surroundings, and a substantial portion of these products is imported into the U.S. from regions like China and other parts of Asia, where they are manufactured.
The conventional methods of chemical manufacturing, involving petrochemistry or fermentation, exhibit drawbacks such as toxic feedstock, high temperatures, harmful waste, and significant energy consumption. Addressing and mitigating these environmental impacts is essential for the imperative goal of decarbonizing the chemical manufacturing and production process, fostering a cleaner and more sustainable global environment.
Solugen has pioneered an innovative approach to chemical production, integrating the strengths of petrochemical processing and fermentation. This groundbreaking method enables the creation of 90% of the world's chemicals. Solugen's proprietary molecules not only exhibit high performance and cost competitiveness but are also carbon-negative, contributing to a sustainable future.
The Company's clean manufacturing process eliminates the generation of harmful waste, making it a transformative solution applicable to critical industries such as agriculture, water, energy, construction, sanitation, and personal care.
Solugen adopts a sustainable approach by utilizing renewable resources such as biomass or carbon dioxide to produce a variety of everyday chemical materials, and the company has built the first clean molecule factory known as the Bioforge, which operates without toxins, carcinogens, or emissions.
Solugen's patented Bioforge processes generate chemicals from bio-based feedstocks based on synthetic biology, metal catalyst engineering, and modular plant design developments.
The Company’s production process is multiple steps.
Solugen’s utility infrastructure supplies water, compressed air, and nitrogen to its Bioforge facility. It uses wind energy to power this critical layer, keeping its carbon emissions at zero from the outset.
To create its bio-based products, Solugen combines corn syrup with deionized water and compressed air. It continually pumps these feedstocks into the enzyme reactor, where its engineered enzymes begin the conversion process.
Membranes keep the enzymes in the reactor and allow it to continuously harvest molecules from the reactor as the reaction takes place. The result at this stage is called the intermediate product—a substance that is only accessible via enzymatic cascades and not via traditional fermentation or thermochemicals.
The intermediate product is processed in separate processing tanks. It’s mixed with more compressed air and flowed over Solugen’s engineered metal catalysts. This transforms the compound again, converting the intermediate product into the final product, achieving >90% overall yield of feedstock to product.
The final product is evaporated to remove excess water and obtain a liquid concentrate for shipping. Solugen uses 100% wind-powered electricity to drive a mechanical vapor recompression evaporator, which is 10x more efficient than burning natural gas to create steam.
The final product is loaded into storage tanks and stored under an inert nitrogen atmosphere. This keeps it fresh and free of contaminants so that it’s ready for transport.
In cases where customers want a solid final product, Solugen takes the extra step of feeding the liquid concentrate into a crystallizer to obtain a solid crystalline product. It then stores that product in super-sacks or 50-pound bags.
The entire process generates zero wastewater or air emissions. An interconnected closed drain system allows all of the material it produces to be continuously collected and reworked without generating byproducts or slowing down operations.
The Bioforge achieves highly profitable and carbon-negative molecular manufacturing by simultaneously satisfying four parameters: biobased feedstocks, high selectivity, high yields, and high throughput.
This enables the Bioforge to convert inexpensive feedstock directly into valuable product molecules while avoiding the formation of waste products.
The Solugen Bioforge reactor system is formed from reactors using both enzymatic and traditional catalytic units.
Solugen specializes in the sale of plant-based chemicals to product manufacturers, catering to a diverse range of purposes. The company also aspires to extend its impact by offering reactors and enzymes to producers, empowering them to autonomously create their own chemicals in the future.
This strategic approach positions Solugen as a provider of both finished products and enabling technologies, contributing to the broader adoption of sustainable and innovative chemical manufacturing practices.
According to Bloomberg, unlike many businesses entering this field, which have struggled to find commercial traction, Solugen is generating revenue. CEO Gaurab Chakrabarti reported that Solugen was on track to generate more than $100 million in revenue in 2022 and yields “software-like margins” of nearly 60% for most products.
Fast Company ranked Solugen the #2 most innovative company in the world for the year 2022.
In October 2022, Solugen announced that it raised over $200 million, increasing its valuation above $2 billion. This capital allows it to break ground on its next Bioforge and start working on 3, 4, and 5, both in the U.S. and abroad.
In October 2023, Solugen and ADM, a global leader in sustainable solutions, announced a strategic partnership to scale a range of innovative, plant-based specialty chemicals and bio-based building block molecules in a new manufacturing facility in Marshall, Minnesota. Under the terms of the agreement, Solugen will build a new 500,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility adjacent to ADM’s existing corn complex in Marshall. The facility will utilize ADM-provided dextrose to scale its current line of lower-carbon organic acids and develop new, innovative molecules to replace existing fossil fuel-based materials.
In November 2023, Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt, the visionary co-founders of Solugen, were recognized as Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award winners by Ernst & Young.