Fakuma 2021

•••2••• Innovationen Bioeconomy CO 2 as a raw material for plastics and other products organisms into building blocks for polymers and the like. As fossil-based raw materials are burned, CO 2 is released into the air. So far, the CO 2 concentration in the earth’s atmosphere has al- ready risen to around 400 parts per million (ppm) equivalent to 0.04 percent. In comparison: Un- til the middle of the 19th century, this value was still in the range of 280 ppm. The increased level of carbon dioxide has a significant impact on the climate. Since Janu- ary 1, 2021, CO 2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels have thus been subject to carbon pric- ing – meaning that manufacturing companies have to pay for their CO 2 emissions. As a result, a large number of companies are looking for new solutions. How can the costs associated with CO 2 emis- sion pricing be reduced? How can CO 2 emissions be reduced through biointelligent processes? Catalytic chemistry and biotech- nology – a winning combination Researchers are currently devel- oping approaches to this in the EVOBIO and ShaPID projects at the Fraunhofer Institute for Inter- facial Engineering and Biotechnol- ogy IGB. They are working on both projects in collaboration with sev- eral Fraunhofer Institutes. “We use the CO 2 as a raw material,” says Dr. Jonathan Fabarius, Senior Scien- tist Biocatalysts at Fraunhofer IGB. “We’re pursuing two approaches: First, heterogeneous chemical ca- talysis, by which we convert the CO 2 with a catalyst to methanol. Second, electrochemistry, by which we produce formic acid from CO 2 .” However the unique feature lies not in this CO 2 -basedmethanol and for- mic acid production alone, but in its combination with biotechnology, more specifically with fermenta- tions by microorganisms. To put it more simply: The researchers first take the waste product CO 2 , which is harmful to the climate, to pro- duce methanol and formic acid. In turn, they use these compounds to “feed” microorganisms that pro- duce further products from them. One example of this kind of prod- uct is organic acids, which are used as building blocks for polymers – a way to produce CO 2 -based plas- tics. This method can also be used to produce amino acids, for exam- ple as food supplements or animal feed. The novel approach offers a host of advantages. “We can create entirely new products, and also improve the CO 2 footprint of tra- ditional products,” Fabarius speci- fies. While conventional chemical processes require a lot of energy and sometimes toxic solvents, products can be produced with microorganisms under milder and more energy-efficient conditions – after all, the microbes grow in more environmentally friendly aqueous solutions. Metabolic engineering makes it possible The research team uses both native methylotrophic bacte- ria, i.e. those that naturally me- tabolize methanol, and yeasts that cannot actually metabolize methanol. The researchers also keep a constant eye on whether new interesting organisms are discovered and check them for their suitability as “cell facto- ries.” But how do these microor- ganisms actually make the prod- ucts? And how can we influence what they produce? “In princi- ple, we use the microorganism’s metabolism to control product manufacture,” explains Fabar- ius. “To do so, we introduce genes into the microbes that provide the bluepr int for cer- tain enzymes. This is also known as metabolic engineering.” The enzymes that are subsequently produced in the microorganism catalyze the production of a specific product in turn. In con- trast, the researchers specifi - cally switch off genes that could negatively inf luence this pro- duction. “By varying the genes that are introduced, we can pro- duce a wide range of products,” Fabarius enthuses. The research team is working on the entire production chain: starting with the microorgan- isms, followed by the gene mod- ifications and the upscaling of production. While some manu- factur ing processes are st i l l at the laboratory stage, other products are already being pro- duced in bioreactors with a ca- pacity of ten litres. As for the industr ial appl ication of such processes, Fabar ius envisages their implementation in the me- dium to long term. Ten years is a realistic time horizon, he says. However, pressure on industry to establish new processes is in- creasing. Separation smear for isolation of single colonies of M. extorquens AM1 on a methanol-con- taining minimal medium agar plate. Foto: Fraunhofer IGB Separation smear for isolation of single colonies of M. extorquens AM1 on a methanol-containing minimal medium agar plate. Foto: Fraunhofer IGB Continued from Page 1 Normung Circular Economy Überblick über den Status Quo der Normung Diese sieben Schwerpunktthe- men stehen im Mittelpunkt: Elek- trotechnik & IKT, Batterien, Ver- packungen, Kunststof fe, Tex- tilien, Bauwerke & Kommunen, Digitalisierung / Geschäftsmodel- le / Management, alles Fokusthe- men des Circular Economy Action Plans der EU. Als Beispiel: In Nor- men und Standards sind bislang keine Anforderungen an Kunst- stoffrezyklate zur Herstellung neuer Produkte definiert. Solche Konkretisierungen könnten zu ei- ner stärkeren Nutzung von Rezy- klaten führen. Mit der Normungs- roadmap sollen diese Lücken identifiziert und geschlossen wer- den, um stärker in ein zirkulares Wirtschaften zu kommen.