BIOCOMET

The BioCOMET project aims to produce methanol  from CO2 with an energyefficiency of 10%.

Plants are very well equipped for converting CO2 into combustible biomass, with the use of solar energy. However, their efficiency (<2%) is very low, since the plant spends a lot of energy on lifeaspects other than CO2 conversion. BioCOMET reduces the concept of plant photosynthesis to a solar cell, coupled to a small chain of biosynthetic enzymes. This simplification should lead to a higher efficiency of CO2 assimilation.
BioCOMET aims to use solar energy to convert CO2 into methanol (CH3OH). Methanol is one of the simplest organic molecules, but represents a large market (350 kiloton / year in the Netherlands), e.g. as raw material for plastics and in blends with gasoline. Nowadays most methanol is made from syngas, which is generated from fossil fuels, which, in the end, costs a lot of fossil energy and produces a lot of CO2. BioCOMET’s aim is to create a methanol production system which is CO2-neutral. To achieve this we will recruit a 3-enzyme reaction, which is inspired on photosynthesis, from nature. This 3-enzyme reaction is normally fueled by NADPH. NADPH is a cofactor carrying energy, and freely diffuses in and out of the enzymes. The 3-enzyme reaction has been demonstrated in a test tube, but stops when the NADPH is exhausted. BioCOMET’s magic bullet will be to recharge NADPH on an electrode by solar energy. This can be achieved by creating the right coupling between NADPH and the electrode surface, and by selecting enzymes that have the right, intimate interaction with NADPH and the electrode surface. Once this has been achieved, process optimization should lead to a chemical “plant cell”, which is able to convert CO2 to methanol by using solar energy.

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