Carbon dioxide to be raw material for future plastic production

A new collaboration, UC-DC, between industry and research will be able to convert captured CO2 into biodegradable plastic using gas fermentation, where bacteria convert CO2 into a raw material for basic chemicals used in, among other things, plastic production.

“We envision a future where CO2 is transformed from a harmful greenhouse gas into an inexhaustible raw material to produce materials that our society needs, in this case plastic. In addition, we want to make sure that the solutions are feasible and can be implemented, says project manager Line Rold Tousgaard from the Danish Technological Institute.

The UC-DC (Utilization of Carbon for Decarbonization) project is a collaboration between the Danish Technological Institute, Pond, Again, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain).

The hope is that before long, various plastic-based products can hopefully be produced directly from CO2. This is the potential result of the UC-DC project, which develops a new biotechnological process to exploit CO2 developed by the company.

“Our gas fermentation process converts CO2 and hydrogen into acetic acid in a one-step process where CO2 is captured and converted in the same step. By combining the ancient ability of bacteria to digest CO2 and today’s advanced biotechnology, we are paving the way for the production of CO2-based chemical building blocks that currently come from fossil raw materials. We are thrilled to be part of an ambitious partnership where our technology plays an integral role in a promising future value chain,” says Torbjørn Ølshøj Jensen, co-founder of Again.

The Danish Technological Institute will demonstrate the use of acetic acid by converting it into a chemical building block for plastic production. Finally, the company Pond will transform this building block into biodegradable plastic polymers that can be used in packaging and textiles, among other things.

“We want to show that it is possible to produce high-quality plastics that come from recycled carbon, especially CO2. It will not only be an interesting innovation in itself, but also a promising alternative to chemical building blocks derived from plant material,” says Thomas Brorsen Pedersen, CEO of Pond.

By recycling CO2 captured from the air or CO2 emitting companies, the solution developed in the UC-DC project plays an important role in creating new supply chains for the utilisation of CO2, also called CCU.

As part of this ambition, DTU Biosustain will calculate how bio-based plastics from CO2 affect the environment and society if production is implemented on a large scale. This involves, among other things, life cycle assessments and market analyses.

“By identifying the potential barriers across this new value chain, we can focus on how to overcome them and demonstrate a viable path from source to product. The great strength of the partnership is that we both develop and evaluate the solutions during the project based on an overall view of the entire value chain, says Line Rold Tousgaard.

UC-DC has a budget of 1.4 million euros, of which 900,000 euros are funded by Innovation Fund Denmark as part of INNO-CCUS, one of Denmark’s four mission-driven innovation partnerships to accelerate the green transition.

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