Reinventing the carbon economy: Engineered Hybrid CO2 valorization
Carbon is a primary component of most present-day commodities and can be viewed as the backbone of our global economy. Carbon dioxide is considered one of the most abundant forms of carbon on earth and its continued buildup in the atmosphere has reached concentrations of around 410 ppm (ca. 32,000 gigatons). Though many fear the impending effects of this accumulation on global climate patterns, others have viewed this plentiful compound as a cheap and largely untapped resource. Engineered carbon dioxide reduction to high energy density fuels and chemicals presents an economically sound approach to mitigate climate change while yielding tremendous environmental and societal benefits. In fact, Fortune Business Insights projected that the global carbon capture and sequestration market will be worth ca. $5.6 billion by the end of 2026. Due to the rapid decrease in the cost of renewable energy, it is practical to design devices that may use solar or wind power to simultaneously drive CO2 sequestration and transformation. The injection of energy into CO2, however, requires a large power investment and the speeds are quite sluggish under standard conditions. By using a hybrid bioelectrochemical approach we developed a two-stage reactor process that can alleviate these issues and directly use renewable electricity to capture CO2 and convert it into everyday fuels and chemicals. Current lab scale experiments have demonstrated excellent production rates, titers, and energy efficiencies. Further optimization of this system towards improved scalability and expanding the portfolio of products that can be generated is on-going.