£1.8 million funding to turn carbon monoxide into useful chemicals

Friday, 20 December 2013

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Oxford Brookes and the University of Nottingham have been awarded £1.8 million to look at ways of accelerating research and development in the harnessing of waste gases to meet the world's growing energy demands.

Up to now, the production of biofuels and other chemicals through biological systems has relied on converting biomass such as sugar cane and corn. This has led to concerns over competition with the use of these products as food.

The C1NET project will explore whether it is possible to directly capture carbon by harnessing the ability of certain bacteria to 'eat' waste gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane and turn them into usable chemicals, such as fuels or bioplastics, in the process.

The world's rapidly growing economies have increasing energy demands and there is much research into the field of biofuels to help ease our reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. In addition, capturing the waste gases from other industrial processes could contribute to reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases causing global warming.

David Fell, Professor of Systems Biology at Oxford Brookes, will be the co-investigator in the C1NET: Chemicals from C1 Gas project. Professor Nigel Minton of the University of Nottingham will be the principal investigator.

Prof Fell explained: "Elsewhere in the world there is major interest in studying the biology of organisms which are able to grow on gases such as carbon monoxide, but the UK lags behind the curve.

"This exciting project aims to build a new community of UK academics to unravel the biological, chemical and process engineering aspects of gas fermentation and, crucially, help steer their commercial application."

The collaboration is part of a wider £18 million project to create 13 networks in industrial biotechnology and bioenenergy funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Overall, the 13 networks will provide innovative research of benefit to the UK economy. The collaborative Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB) will boost interaction between the UK's world-leading researchers and industry, promoting the translation of research into benefits for the UK.

The networks will pool skills from academia and business to develop projects with the potential to overcome major challenges in the industrial biotechnology and bioenergy arena.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services, as set out in our Industrial Strategy.

"These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding innovative ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells."

For more information about BBSRC, please visit: www.bbsrc.ac.uk