LanzaTech, the New Zealand-based developer of a process using bacterial fermentation to convert carbon monoxide into ethanol, has secured US$3.5M in Series A funding, led by Khosla Ventures and supported by two existing New Zealand based investors. (Earlier post.)
The technology could produce 50 billion gallons of ethanol from the world’s steel mills alone. The technology will also contribute to the production of biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks, as it can convert syngas—comprising hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide—into ethanol.
The funding will support further technology development, the establishment of a pilot plant, and more engineering work to prepare for commercial-scale ethanol production.
We have proven in our laboratories that the carbon monoxide in industrial waste gases such as those generated during steel manufacture can be processed by bacterial fermentation to produce ethanol. Garnering the financial and strategic support of Khosla Ventures is a significant validation of our approach, and we welcome Khosla Ventures Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Doug Cameron, to our Board of Directors.—Dr. Sean Simpson, Chief Scientist and Founder of LanzaTech
LanzaTech was co-founded in 2005 by Dr. Richard Forster and Dr. Sean Simpson, both formerly of AgriGenesis BioSciences. The Chairman of the Board it Prof. Ross Clark, formerly a Senior Scientist at Genentech and founder of Tercica Inc.
The company has been working with a number of organisms, including: Geobacter sulfurreducens, Clostridium autoethanogenum, Moorella thermoacetica, Clostridium ultunense, Clostridium ljungdahlii, Caldanaerobacter subterraneus subsp. pacificus, and Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans.
LanzaTech is not alone is attempting to develop a commercially-viable pathway for the production of ethanol from waste gases or gasifier syngas. For example, Bioengineering Resources Inc. is developing an integrated gasifier-fermentation system that relies on a patented microorganism to ferment the components of the gases into ethanol. (Earlier post.)
Researchers at the University of Oklahoma have been working with recently discovered clostridial bacteria that convert the components of synthesis gas (CO, CO2, H2) into liquid products such as ethanol, butanol and acetic acid.
“Formation of ethanol from carbon monoxide via a new microbial catalyst”; Srini Rajagopalan, Rohit P. Datar and Randy S. Lewis; Biomass and Bioenergy Volume 23, Issue 6, December 2002, Pages 487-493