September 18, 2007

Ethanol and Plastic made from CO2

Professor Pengchen Fu has developed strains of cyanobacteria (bright green pond scum) that feed on carbon dioxide and produce ethanol as waste, possibly eliminating the need for expensive and time-consuming farming techniques currently necessary to produce the alternative fuel.

By successfully transforming two genes , Fu and his colleagues were able to engineer a specific strain of Synechocystis that emits ethanol as waste using carbon dioxide and sunlight. With his new startup - SUNOL Biotechnology - Fu hopes to be able to build a large-scale ethanol plant within the next 2-3 years.

In addition to removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, Fu envisages using the cyanobacteria to pull it out of power plant emissions, helping to prevent further GHG release into the atmosphere and slowing the onset of global warming.

Plastic from CO2

Cornell University Professor Geoffrey Coates has founded a company to take advantage of his team's discovery of a way to make non-toxic plastics out of CO2 and citrus peels.

His company, Novamer is marketing catalysts which can be used to create a fully sustainable polymer out of CO2 and limonene from citrus peels.

The polymer is biodegradable, optically clear, and has a high oxygen and water barrier.

Potential applications include:

+ Advanced food storage and protection films

+ Sacrificial layer for nanofluidics and electronics manufacture

+ Drug delivery

+ Flexible electronic displays

+ Polyurethane foam