German companies RWE Power and biotech firm BRAIN AG (Biotechnology Research And Information Network) are collaborating on research to convert carbon dioxide into microbial biomass or molecules. The two want to equip micro-organisms with new enzymes and explore innovative synthesis routes and pathways.
CO2-rich flue gas from a lignite-fired power station will feed the designer micro-organisms. Possible applications, now being explored, include building and isolation materials and the production of fine and specialty chemicals. An experimental plant is to be located at RWE Power’s Coal Innovation Centre, at its Niederaussem power plant site.
Working with RWE Power, we want to advance into a new era of CO2 conversion. There is a variety of microbial engineering pathways, while synthetic biology offers possibilities. Both lead to more efficient CO2 conversion, using these powerful designer micro-organisms. So we are positive about the future success of our co-operation.
—Dr Jürgen Eck, BRAIN’s Research Director
RWE Power has made the Coal Innovation Centre at its Niederaussem site the center of its activities for cleaner power generation from coal. The company already operates Germany’s first CO2 scrubbing plant here. This is a prototype for pre-drying lignite (WTA fluid bed drying system). The plant utilizes internal waste heat, and a REAplus high-performance scrubber, to improve the separation of dust and sulphur dioxide from the flue gas.
An existing algae project integrates carbon dioxide with plant matter which can then be used as biomass.