Researchers demonstrate how bacteria upcycle convert carbon waste into useful industrial chemicals

Industry Insights

Known for breaking down lactose to convert milk into yogurt, researchers at Lanza Tech and Northwestern University have now harnessed bacteria to disintegrate waste carbon dioxide and make valuable industrial products.

The pilot study to establish this involved engineering and optimizing a bacteria strain and then successfully demonstrate its ability to transform CO2 into isopropanol and acetone.

The new fermentation process provides two advantages: Eliminate greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and also avoids using fossil fuels that are typically needed to obtain acetone and IPA. On undertaking of life-cycle analysis, the team discovered carbon-negative platform could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 160% in comparison to conventional processes if they are widely adopted.

Meanwhile, the aggravating climate crisis combined with population growth pose some urgent challenges for humankind, all of which are linked to unabated discharge and accrue of CO2 across the complete biosphere.

The initiative to utilize our strength to partner with biology to make what is needed, where and when it is needed on a sustainable and renewable basis can be the tipping point to take advantage of available carbon dioxide to transform the bioeconomy.

Acetone and IPA are necessary industrial bulk and platform chemicals that are found nearly everywhere, and have a combined market worth more than US$ 10 billion. IPA is a widely used disinfectant and antiseptic, and is the key ingredient for one of the sanitizers recommended by the World Health Organization for killing SARS-CoV-2. Acetone is a solvent for many plastics and synthetic fibers, cleaning tools, thinning polyester resin, and nail polish remover.

While the chemicals find incredible use, they are obtained from fossil resources that lead to CO2 emissions associated with global warming.

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