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Integrated electromicrobial conversion of CO2 to higher alcohols

3 April 2012

In a recent article in Science (30 March 2012), a method was described to use CO2, electricity and a microorganism to produce alcohol. This may be an important first step towards using carbon dioxide as a source material for commercial chemicals that are now petroleum-based. This process may also be valuable for storing electrical energy as chemical energy (summary MV).


Science 30 March 2012: Vol. 335 no. 6076 p. 1596; DOI: 10.1126/science.1217643  

Han Li, Paul H. Opgenorth, David G. Wernick, Steve Rogers, Tung-Yun Wu, Wendy Higashide, Peter Malati, Yi-Xin Huo, Kwang Myung Cho, James C. Liao


One of the major challenges in using electrical energy is the efficiency in its storage. Current methods, such as chemical batteries, hydraulic pumping, and water splitting, suffer from low energy density or incompatibility with current transportation infrastructure. Here, we report a method to store electrical energy as chemical energy in higher alcohols, which can be used as liquid transportation fuels. We genetically engineered a lithoautotrophic microorganism, Ralstonia eutropha H16, to produce isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol in an electro-bioreactor using CO2 as the sole carbon source and electricity as the sole energy input. The process integrates electrochemical formate production and biological CO2 fixation and higher alcohol synthesis, opening the possibility of electricity-driven bioconversion of CO2 to commercial chemicals.


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3 April 2012

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