Scientists Use Bacteria to Turn CO2 Into Bioplastics!


| LAST UPDATE 04/14/2023

By Stanley Wickens
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Are you ready for a game-changer in the world of sustainability? Did you know that scientists are turning carbon dioxide into bioplastics? Yup, you heard it right! A team of chemical engineers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has come up with a system that relies on bacteria to turn CO2 into a polymer called Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB).

The process involves a first step where CO2 is transformed into formate by the electrolyzer before being conveyed into the fermentation tank, where the Cupriavidus necator bacteria gets to work. This species is known for synthesizing carbon compounds, such as the eco-friendly and compostable polyester PHB, from other carbon sources. What's the creepiest part, you ask? The bacteria gobbles up the formate feedstock and then stockpiles granules of PHB, which are then extracted from the harvested cells. Is it just us, or does that sound like something straight out of a sci-fi horror movie?

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According to the scientists, this system, if powered by renewable energy, could be a fossil-fuel-free way of generating bioplastics, and simultaneously tackle two global issues - plastic waste, and climate change. However, we're not quite there yet, with the team having only tested the system for 18 days, producing a mere 1.45 grams worth of polyester. We don't know about you, but we're not sure we want to visualize a bacterial apocalypse where these organisms take over the world, feeding on our CO2 emissions...

Plastic-munching bacteria are one thing, but turning carbon dioxide, one of the main culprits behind climate change, into plastic? It's some crazy world we're living in! Sure, producing environmentally sustainable bioplastics is an important goal, but let's not forget the bigger picture of combating climate change, where reducing carbon emissions is paramount. In all honesty, this technology does have the potential to be a game changer for sustainability. But it's also a tad concerning if you think about it, relying on bacteria to make our products seems like an uncanny development. Let's just hope that we don't reap the consequences of the bacterial uprising anytime soon.

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