A scalable process uses microbes as mini factories to produce chemicals without fossil fuels
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Spotted: According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the chemical sector is one of the largest industry subsectors in terms of direct CO2 emissions. These emissions largely come from fuel that is used as a raw material rather than as a source of energy. Reducing the carbon emitted by the sector requires new processes and feedstocks, and Amsterdam-based Photanol thinks it has found a solution.
Photanol uses cyanobacteria that have been optimized to produce useful chemicals through photosynthesis. The company has, in essence, transformed these bacteria into mini-factories that run on CO2 and sunlight.
Veronique de Bruijn, CEO of Photanol explains the process: “The cyanobacteria are basically our mini-factories, they use CO2 as the raw material and turn this into chemical compounds such as organic acids, which are the building blocks for biodegradable plastics, personal care products, and a host of other things.”
The company was spun out of the University of Amsterdam and has been working with partners and investors to build a pilot plant and scale up its development process. The process aims to compete with most bio-based alternatives, such as biodegradable plastics and some more specialised applications, and eventually at larger scale even beat the cost of fossil-based raw materials.
And Photanol is not alone – others are also using bacteria to save energy and sequester CO2. Springwise has recently covered cold-loving, plastic-digesting microbes and the use of microbes to make proteins at speed.
Written By: Lisa Magloff