TONAWANDA, N.Y., Jan. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- River Road Research today announced that the company has been awarded patent #8,815,539 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, for a method to produce melanin and inorganic fertilizer from fermentation leachates.
A pigment ubiquitous in nature, melanin is extremely difficult to isolate and refine in large quantities. It has long been known to possess physical and electrical properties but few commercial applications have been developed due to the historically high cost. Produced with conventional technology, melanin is often priced at $350 per gram.
Melanin, which is the primary determinant of skin color, also has various applications as a compound in ultra-violet light and radiation protection, anti-oxidants, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. The most tantalizing applications currently in development are organic battery technologies. The patent awarded to River Road Research protects the method in which the company will be able to produce melanin for usage in these and other applications.
"Many scientific studies have verified that melanin has unique characteristics for a wide range of applications, especially in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and battery technology sectors which have growing global demand," said Kenneth Nealson, Ph.D., vice president of research at River Road Research.
Research Director Radu Popa, Ph. D. added, "Our patent is unique in that ordinary food waste is the only feedstock required, and that it is a biological process that technically requires no inputs such as energy or water."
Dr. Nealson was named as having "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds" for 2014 by Thomson Reuters. He received his BS in biochemistry and Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Chicago and post-doctoral work at Harvard University for three years. Dr. Popa was awarded a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Cincinnati and a Ph.D. in hydrothermal ecology from the University of Bucharest.
In its patent, River Road Research received intellectual property protection for the various methods it uses to produce melanin. The first step of the process involves a proprietary fermentation of the food waste that produces a nutrient rich leachate. This leachate is then secondarily processed utilizing a fly larvae as a bioreactor.
The flies are indigenous to many parts of the world, including North America and are harmless to humans. River Road Research has several other projects involving the insect which is commonly known as the black soldier fly or hermetia illucens.
"What we are doing is manufacturing melanin and then concentrating this rare and expensive commodity for the benefit of the marketplace," said River Road Research managing director Scott Ernst. "We are very excited about the significant opportunities for the company in the global marketplace, particularly in supporting the development of more environmentally friendly battery technologies."
River Road plans to make the technology available through licensing, but can also provide bulk material to those looking to develop applications.
With a growing global population food waste has become a major environmental issue, especially in landfills where methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas, is naturally produced. It is estimated that 25% of methane emissions in the United States is the result of food rotting in landfills. Food waste recycling has become compulsory in many large cities and few good solutions exist. River Road's future projects will further address the recycling of food waste.
River Road Research
Earl Wells/Danielle DelMonte e3communications
SOURCE River Road Research