Science funding body NWO-TTW and partners in industry are investing EUR 3.8 million in a consortium that will use micro-organisms to convert syngas into useful chemical building blocks in a sustainable way. By doing so, the consortium intends to contribute to the circular economy and reduce CO2 emissions.
Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen that is released in industrial processes, such as steel production and biomass gasification. It is already possible to use syngas by converting it into chemical raw materials, but the varying composition of the gas makes direct chemical processing difficult.
Micro-organisms are less sensitive to variations in the composition of the syngas. For this reason, the consortium intends to develop new biological methods, processes and bioreactors to process the gas. The scientists will go in search of suitable micro-organisms that can produce the required chemicals and then intend to upscale the process in order to produce these chemicals in large quantities. Efforts will also be made to boost public acceptance of the new technology.
The consortium consists of the academic partners TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology and programme coordinator Wageningen UR, as well as industrial partners, such as AkzoNobel and Paques. Leading the project on behalf of TU Delft is Adrie Straathof from the Biotechnology department in the Faculty of Applied Sciences. The programme budget will be used to deploy eleven doctoral candidates and two PDEng students who will work with the three academic partners in the next five to six years.
In 2017, the NWO Applied and Engineering Sciences (TTW) domain is making available 21 million euros for six new, challenging research programmes that fit within the Dutch government’s nine designated top sectors. These Perspective programmes are co-funded by private partners. With a total budget of 32 million euros, 74 doctoral candidates and 25 post-docs will be able to work on the programmes for the coming five to six years.
Adrie Straathof (photo by Roy Borghouts)