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Bacteria convert CO2 into useful chemicals

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process technology

Apr 03, 2024

By Stefan Asche

Reading time: approx. 2 minutes

For the first time, electrolysis and fermentation take place in parallel. Carbon-based catalysts make this possible.

A team led by Tim Fellinger (photo) has succeeded in combining electrolysis and fermentation in one system in order to produce usable starting substances from CO2.
Photo: Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing/BAM

Researchers at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) have developed a new technology to produce useful chemicals from CO using bacteria and solar power2 to win. In the future, greenhouse gas emissions could be used in industry instead of being released into the atmosphere. The cooperation project with the Technical University of Munich was funded by the German Research Foundation.

The reduction of the greenhouse gas CO2 is crucial to limiting the consequences of climate change. In this context, interest in biocatalytic processes that use CO has grown2– Bind emissions and convert them into useful chemicals.

For example, ethanol and acetic acid are produced

It is known in principle that carbon dioxide can be electrochemically upgraded with the help of bacteria. For this purpose, the processes of electrolysis and fermentation are combined: CO2 is first reduced to CO and then metabolized by bacteria to acetic acid or to ethanol or butanediol – acids and alcohols that can serve as starting materials for specialty chemicals.

Reading tip: Biopolymers from bacteria protect technical textiles

So far, however, electrolysis and fermentation have taken place in two separate steps. The catalysts of the electrolysis devices, which are made of gold, silver or copper, are sensitive to the liquid that is required for fermentation. Due to their antibacterial effect, the metals do not get along well with the beneficial microorganisms.

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