Succinic acid is a precursor of many important, large-volume industrial chemicals and consumer products. It was once common knowledge that many ruminant microorganisms accumulated succinic acid under anaerobic conditions. However, it was not until the discovery of Anaerobiospirillum succiniciproducens
at the Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI), which was capable of producing succinic acid up to about 50 g/L under optimum conditions, that the commercial feasibility of producing the compound by biological processes was realized. Other microbial strains capable of producing succinic acid to high final concentrations subsequently were isolated and engineered, followed by development of fermentation processes for their uses. Processes for recovery and purification of succinic acid from fermentation broths were simultaneously established along with new applications of succinic acid, e.g., production of biodegradable deicing compounds and solvents. Several technologies for the fermentation-based production of succinic acid and the subsequent conversion to useful products are currently commercialized. This review gives a summary of the development of microbial strains, their fermentation, and the importance of the down-stream recovery and purification efforts to suit various applications in the context of their current commercialization status for biologically derived succinic acid.
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