Headimage abstract

Carbon dioxide as a source of raw materials

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute are developing a process to make CO2 usable as a raw material for plastics as well.


The scientists want to show a possible way to reduce CO2 and use the climate gas as a raw material, for example for plastics. In the projects called Evobio and Shapid, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (Fraunhofer IGB) are developing two approaches in collaboration with several Fraunhofer institutes. According to the information, research is being conducted into heterogeneous chemical catalysis, in which carbon dioxide is converted to methanol using a catalyst, and an approach from electrochemistry, in which formic acid is obtained from the carbon dioxide. The methanol and formic acid obtained from the carbon dioxide, according to the special feature of the process, were in turn used as "feed" for microorganisms that could produce other products from it, such as organic acids. These, in turn, could be used as building blocks for polymers, allowing carbon dioxide-based plastics to be produced. The novel approach is said to offer numerous advantages. "We can realize entirely new products, but also improve the carbon footprint of classic products," explains Dr. Jonathan Fabarius, topic area leader for microbial catalysis at Fraunhofer IGB. Unlike conventional chemical processes, Fabarius says the microorganisms, which grow in aqueous solutions, can be used to produce the products under milder and more energy-efficient conditions. "To control product production, we use the metabolism of the microorganism," Fabarius explains. "To do this, we introduce genes into the microbes that provide the blueprint for specific enzymes - this is also known as metabolic engineering. By varying the inserted genes, we can produce a wide range of products," Fabarius says. According to him, it will take another ten years or so before such processes can be applied on an industrial scale.



  • (02.08.2021)
  • Photo: © Fraunhofer IGB

Go back