Novo Nordisk Foundation CO₂ Research Center welcomes five new research teams
The Novo Nordisk Foundation CO₂ Research Center – CORC – will be expanding into new underexplored areas as the center funds five new projects.
The mission of the Novo Nordisk Foundation CO2 Research Center is to generate new science and early-stage technologies for capture and conversion of CO2, either into inert carbon – for instance stored in material products – or for use in a circular economy. A main part of the center’s role is to call for new ideas within innovative, interdisciplinary research in areas that complement the center’s ongoing research on CO2 capture and conversion. CORC has just completed its first thematic call, where more than 70 proposals were submitted.
Of these proposals, CORC selected five projects for funding that have the potential for new breakthroughs within CO2 capture and conversion. Two of these projects are within the field of chemistry, and three are within life science.
“The new projects are very interesting and will add a good expansion into new areas for our center. I’m very happy that the projects are still at the exploratory stage, as this gives us the possibility to investigate new areas that we can expand into,” says Alfred Spormann, founding director of CORC.
A total of 74 proposals were submitted in the autumn of 2022. The grant decision was guided by CORC’s Strategic Grants Council, consisting of researchers and industry professionals. Approximately half of the proposals were from Denmark, and the rest were from Europe, North America and India. Of the five proposals that have now been chosen for CORC grants in specific research areas, four are from Aarhus University, and one is from the California Institute of Technology.
The five projects are scheduled to commence during spring and summer this year, they are:
- Novel approach to CO2 conversion to platform chemicals
- CO2 reduction with the help of cable bacteria: Efficient uptake of electrons from water by cable bacteria fiber sheaths
- CoCa-PepSyMax: Carbon dioxide capture via chains of amino acids
- CO2 removal from ocean water
- Reducing cost of carbon capture by minimizing the energy penalty
Read descriptions of the five projects that have received funding below.
Novel approach to CO2 conversion to platform chemicals
|Grant: 2.23 MDKK for 1 year
Associate Professor Nina Lock, Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Aarhus University
Associate Professor Magnus Kjærgaard, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University
This project aims to increase the effectiveness of enhancing the electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 to useful C2 compounds.
Nina Lock is an associate professor specializing in materials chemistry, and Magnus Kjærgaard is an associate professor specializing in biological functions of protein dynamics. They are combining their expertise to apply a new approach to the conversion of CO2 into C2 compounds such as ethylene and ethanol. These compounds can then serve as platform chemicals for new products.
“With this project, we aim at developing a novel class of catalysts for efficient electrocatalytic CO2 conversion into C2 products by using a cross-disciplinary approach and inspiration from nature,” the researchers explain in their project proposal. “Because proteins are derived from nature, protein-based catalysts are inherently sustainable to produce. Based on experience from protein biotechnology, we think it’s realistic to scale up such a solution to the scale needed to make a dent in CO2 emissions.”
CO2 reduction with the help of cable bacteria
|Grant: 2.52 MDKK for 1.5 years
Assistant Professor Ian Marshall, Department of Biology, Aarhus University
Senior Researcher Thomas Boesen, Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center, Aarhus University
Professor Andreas Schramm, Department of Biology, Aarhus University
Professor Lars Peter Nielsen, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University
A team of four researchers specializing in electro-microbiology at Aarhus University is proposing to study the metabolism and water-oxidizing capabilities of cable bacteria to develop more efficient methods of CO2 reduction. Water (H2O) offers an abundant and easily accessible source of such electrons for the electrochemical reduction of CO2; however, with the disadvantage that current technologies for oxidizing water are inefficient.
“In cable bacteria, we have discovered a novel mechanism for H2O oxidation in the conductive fibers from the cells’ periplasms. We want to study whether this novel mechanism could inspire a new type of biomimetic catalysts for use in CO2 reduction technologies,” the four researchers explain in their proposal.
Their project aims to investigate how this reaction works in cable bacteria by analyzing the protein structure and function of the catalytic water-splitting site. Through this analysis, the project has the potential to shed light on nature’s unique approach to catalyst design.
CoCa-PepSyMax: Carbon dioxide capture via chains of amino acids
|Grant: 2.14 MDKK for 2 years
Professor Daniel Otzen, Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center, Aarhus University
Professor Peter Westh, Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Technical University of Denmark
Peter Westh is a professor in enzymology specializing in enzyme engineering, and Daniel Otzen is a professor in molecular biology and biotechnology specializing in proteins. Together, they propose to study how selected protein structures can be utilized to generate specific peptide complexes that can efficiently capture CO2.
“Bacteria naturally produce self-organized protein assemblies, which we will modify to display reversible CO2-binding peptide motifs,” the two professors explain in their proposal.
Their project, CoCa-PepSyMax, aims to establish a “CO2-binding peptide grammar” and apply it to develop a microbial-based and abundantly available capture and release system for CO2.
CO2 removal from oceanwater
|Grant: 7.78 MDKK for 3 years
Professor Harry Atwater, Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science, California Institute of Technology
Professor Chengxiang Xiang, Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science, California Institute of Technology
Harry Atwater is a professor in applied physics and materials science specializing in nanophotonics and plasmonics, and Chengxiang Xiang is a professor of applied physics and materials science specializing in electrochemical and photoelectrochemical devices.
Their project focuses on the ocean’s capacity for absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. It aims to quantify the rate of CO2 drawdown resulting from the removal of CO2 from ocean water via an electrochemical-based direct ocean capture system.
“We want to investigate the development of an offshore, stand-alone direct ocean capture system for efficient and cost-competitive removal of CO2 from ocean water. Specifically, we will explore and validate how the process of atmospheric CO2 drawdown is related to CO2 removal from ocean water” the two researchers explain in their proposal.
By using modelling and building a test unit, the project aims to gain a better understanding of the behavior of CO2 at the air/ocean water interface and in the shallow ocean layer. This information could guide future developments in the field of direct ocean capture. d
Reducing cost of carbon capture by minimizing the energy penalty
|Grant: 2.86 MDKK for 2 years
Assistant Professor Behzad Partoon, Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Aarhus University
Assistant Professor Konstantinos Anastasakis, Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Aarhus University
Behzad Partoon is an assistant professor at Process & Materials Engineering, focusing on developing power-to-X and carbon capture technologies. Konstantinos Anastasakis is an assistant professor in Sustainable Process Systems Engineering, focusing on the development and analysis of integrated processes for renewable fuels and chemicals, chemical energy storage (power-to-X), waste valorization, and biorefineries.
The aim of their current exploratory project is to reduce the cost of carbon capture by minimizing the energy penalty.
“Gas hydrate-based carbon capture technology could significantly lower the cost of carbon capture by reducing the energy penalty of the process by up to 50%. Gas hydrate production is a thermodynamically driven process. We propose to explore more suitable thermodynamic promoters and investigate their role in the development of a gas hydrate-based carbon capture process,” the researchers explain in their proposal.
The group plans to conduct a techno-economic assessment of the technology to estimate the Internal Rate of Return (IRR), Net Present Value (NPV) and the minimum price for capturing CO2. The goal of the project is to drive research and development for the further development and industrial deployment of gas hydrate-based CO2 capture technology, enabling it to become a viable solution for reducing carbon emissions.
The five projects are scheduled to commence this year during the spring and summer.