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Scientists Use Microorganisms to Produce Plastic, Polymer From Carbon Dioxide

Conversion of the gas into plastic involves a two-stage process. Representative image.

Conversion of the gas into plastic involves a two-stage process. Representative image.

CO2 concentration in our atmosphere has grown to 440 parts per million from 280 ppm in the mid-19 century.

Climate change has been the biggest concern threatening the very existence of humans and other species on Earth. While there have been growing voices about working on ways to check the rapid environmental deterioration, we still have a long road to cover. One of the biggest contributors to this issue is the production of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide that has been depleting the balance in our atmosphere. CO2 is produced every time a fossil-based raw material is burned and our dependence on fossil fuels has turned it into a threatening problem.

CO2 concentration in our atmosphere has grown to 440 parts per million from 280 ppm in the mid-19 century. However, a recent method invention by scientists at the Fraunhofer Society, Germany, could be a possible way to reduce CO2 emission. According to azom.com, the scientists proposed a method to convert CO2 into plastic by using microorganisms.

This conversion of the gas into plastic involves a two-stage process. In the first step, CO2 is used to produce formic acid and methanol that's later converted into building blocks for polymers in the second leg.

Shedding more light on it, Dr Jonathan Fabarius, Senior Scientist Biocatalysts, Fraunhofer IGB, said that they used two approaches in the process. First, heterogeneous chemical catalysis, by which they convert the CO2 to methanol using a catalyst. Second, electrochemistry, by which they produce formic acid from CO2.

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The process then relied on the combination of biotechnology tools particularly fermentation incited my microorganism. Simply put, CO2 is first used to generate formic acid and methanol and later this product is fed to microorganisms who in return convert it into additional products like polymer.

The traditional method that until now has been used to facilitate this conversion required a high amount of energy and toxic solvent. However, this new technology can do the same task in a mild and energy-efficient environment.

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first published:August 04, 2021, 21:22 IST