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Angenent Group

Research summary

We want to make our societies more sustainable by developing innovative biotechnology-production platforms in the lab that can be translated into the real world. With this development and translation of technology, we aspire to make an impact on reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere or by combining carbon capture and utilization into useful products. In the Angenent research group and spin-off start-up companies, microbes that originated from our environment are put to work in bioreactors to make biological conversions. Through gas fermentation, it is even possible to use CO2 and/or carbon monoxide (CO) as a carbon course by feeding in gases as the singular substrate.

Lars Angenent on turning CO2 into protein

In this short video, Lars Angenent describes his research on using microbes for turning biomass into biogas and using residual CO2 from biogas for a power-to-protein process. This effectively creates protein for human consumption of CO2 making it a less emission-heavy protein source than conventional animal-based protein. Lars describes how Denmark is a great place for doing research due to the availability of bioreactors.

A holistic view on research

Environmental Biotechnology is closely aligned with finding technological solutions to our most serious social problem: the rapid deterioration of our environment. However, we do not lose sight of non-technological issues such as policy making, social issues, sustainable assessments, and economic viability. In the last 20 years, our lab and partnered labs have found solutions to recover carbon during wastewater treatment in congruence with our circular economy. Examples are anaerobic digestion and chain elongation with microbiomes.

The potential and scalability

Lars describes the potential of power-to-protein technology. The technology is very scalable and only 10.000 bioreactors can supply protein in the form of yeast for much of the global population.

Moving forward

However, this is not enough; we must now develop carbon-negative technologies to produce, for example, fuels, green chemicals, plastics, and even human food. To stop global warming beyond 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, we need to remove CO2 from smokestacks and the atmosphere, and then the carbon needs to be stored. One technology platform takes plant material and burns it under oxygen-limiting conditions so that carbon material, which plants had removed as CO2 from the atmosphere, is converted into pyrogenic biochar and CO. The biochar can be stored to improve soils, and the CO is used via biological conversions to make plastics or human food. This combination is one example of how the production of plastics or human food could become carbon negative. Other carbon-capture technologies use chemicals to temporarily bind and remove CO2, which can be utilized for product development.

Lars Angenent on challenges and perspectives

There are many challenges when creating new technologies, also besides actual research. Here Lars Angenent describes some of the challenges in scaling and doing research on CO2-to-protein technology.