CO2 as feedstock for the production of biodegradable plastics (PHA)

More than 5 million tons of plastic ends up in the sea every year. In addition, the emissions that are released during the petrochemical plastic production process are also polluting. The development of bioplastics, such as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), is receiving increasing attention from this perspective. PHA are characterized by their excellent biodegradability and can be biologically produced by bacteria. However, the currently expensive production process from plant-based sugars or oils hinders large-scale commercialization.

As a young scientist active within the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant, bio-engineer Elodie Vlaeminck will contribute during her doctoral research to the development of an alternative and more sustainable strategy: the use of CO2 as feedstock for the production of PHA. In addition to PHA-producing bacteria, CO2-capturing bacteria are also used for this. They are combined in a two-step fermentative process in which acetate acts as an intermediate molecule. Acetate is the product of a natural and efficient bacterial conversion of CO2 and H2. Moreover, it is also a promising substrate from which, in addition to bioplastics, a wide range of other high-quality products, such as lipids and proteins, can be produced.

Elodie Vlaeminck is assisted by her supervisor Prof. Wim Soetaert and funded by the Research Foundation (FWO) Flanders. Together with the support and expertise of both Ghent University and Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant, this project can lead to the establishment of an innovative, biotechnological CCU strategy with acetate as platform molecule.

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