Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Dates: Feb 2015-Jan 2020
Summary: One of the greatest challenges facing industry and society is the future sustainable production of chemicals and fuels from non-food feedstocks while at the same time reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. To date, the focus has been on the biological conversion of plant biomass to chemicals and fuels through a microbial fermentation. The costs involved in breaking down the biomass into the sugars the microbes need are making the development of economic processes extremely challenging. My research is concerned with an exciting alternative, and that is to directly capture carbon, by harnessing the ability of certain bacteria to ‘eat’ single carbon (C1) gases such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). These gases may be injected into the liquid medium of fermentation vessels where they are consumed by the bacteria and converted into useful chemicals and fuels. Fortunately, C1 gases are an abundant resource, and may be derived from non-food sources such as waste gases from industry as well as ‘synthesis gas’ produced from the gasification (heating) of sustainable resources, such as biomass and domestic/ agricultural wastes, and from microbial activity in anaerobic digesters and managed landfill sites. By using non-food, waste gas as a feedstock for chemical and fuel production, competition with food and land resources is avoided while at the same time providing benefits to the environment and society through a reduction in GHG emissions.