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Here are the bacteria that reduce CO2 by producing industrial raw materials

Here are the bacteria that reduce CO2 by producing industrial raw materials

A team of researchers from Northwestern University and LanzaTech labs are leading new research to reduce CO2 already present in the atmosphere and at the same time avoid introducing other greenhouse gases to produce some raw materials. Scientists have indeed selected, engineered and optimized a bacterial strain successfully demonstrating its ability to convert waste CO2 into acetone and isopropanol (PAH), valuable industrial chemicals.

A new process to eliminate CO2 and not produce it further

As Michael Jewett of Northwestern, one of the co-authors of the study published yesterday in the journal Nature Biotechnology, said, “By harnessing our ability to collaborate with biology to produce what is needed, where and when it is needed, on a sustainable and renewable basis, we can thestart exploiting available CO2 to transform the bioeconomy“.

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This new gas fermentation process not only removes this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, but also avoids the further use of fossil fuels, which are needed to generate acetone and IPA. After performing the life cycle analysis, the team found that the carbon-negative platform could reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 160% compared to conventional processes. Obviously this would only be possible if this procedure were adopted on a large scale.

Acetone and IPA are indeed chemicals needed for industry which are found almost everywhere, with a combined global market exceeding $ 10 billion. IPA is widely used as a disinfectant and antiseptic. And acetone is a solvent for many plastics, for some synthetic fibers, as a thinner for polyester resin and as a solvent for nail polishes.

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These substances, given their wide use, are practically necessary and are produced from fossil resources. Their production therefore inevitably leads to further CO2 emissions, with the consequences we know for the climate of our planet.

Through this new gas fermentation process instead, these substances would be produced in a more sustainable way, starting from excess CO2 in the atmosphere and at the same time avoiding the production of further greenhouse gases.

The bio-fermentation of CO2 in the future of industrial processes

For the bio-fermentation, the researchers used an anaerobic bacterium, the Clostridium autoethanogenum, suitably modified and engineered in the LanzaTech laboratories. The researchers then used synthetic biology techniques to reprogram the bacterium in order produce acetone and IPA by fermenting CO2 much faster than could happen in nature, as Jewett explained.

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This new fermentation technique and the bacterial strains developed, both according to the Northwestern team and according to LanzaTech, will translate on an industrial scale. This new type of approach could indeed be also applied to the creation of simplified processes for the generation of other chemicals.

Further information: Nature Biotechnology; DOI: 10.1038 / s41587-021-01195-w