Converting CO2 into feedstock for plastics — ScienceDaily


In plants, natural photosynthesis binds carbon dioxide (CO2) into organic compounds, which can then be transformed into glucose or starch. These useful molecules can be sequestered, storing the carbon in solid form. Artificial photosynthesis mimics this process by reducing the greenhouse gas CO2 – the main cause of climate change – which is converted into other useful substances.

Researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University have succeeded in creating fumarate using artificial photosynthesis on pyruvate and CO2. This fumarate can be used to make biodegradable plastic like polybutylene succinate, storing carbon in a compact, durable and strong form. Currently, most of the fumarate used to make this plastic is produced from petroleum, thus creating fumarate from CO2 and biomass-derived pyruvate is highly desirable.

Professor Yutaka Amao of the Artificial Photosynthesis Research Center and Mika Takeuchi, a graduate student at the Graduate School of Science, Osaka Metropolitan University, used the biocatalyst malate dehydrogenase (oxaloacetate-decarboxylate) to combine CO2 with pyruvate, derived from biomass, to produce L-malic acid. Subsequently, the biocatalyst fumarase was used to dehydrate L-malic acid to synthesize fumarate.

“Biocatalysts have been used to convert CO2 raw material for plastic. Based on our results, we will continue to build better COs2 conversion systems with even lower environmental impact; we aim for a more efficient conversion of CO2 into useful substances, using light energy,” Professor Amao said.

Building on this success, the team has already started researching new methods of artificial photosynthesis with the aim of producing fumarate using light as energy. If this technology can be realized, it will create a new artificial photosynthetic system to synthesize useful macromolecules from CO2.

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Material provided by Osaka Metropolitan University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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