To achieve the climate targets, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere must be reduced. This can be done among others by removing CO2 from the air and using it as a raw material for the production of useful chemicals, bioplastics and so on.

Using CO2 emissions to make plastics for use in 3D printing and as prebiotics in aquaculture: that in a nutshell is the aim of the recently completed CO2MPASS project. VITO’s research focused on the conversion of CO2 to polyhydroxyalkanoates via fermentation processes or bacteria. Work was first started on the production of polyhydroxybutyrate. Then the focus was on the copolymer poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate), abbreviated PHBV. PHBV is more flexible, and easier to biodegrade and process for use among others in packaging, medical implants and prebiotics. By integrating process design and modelling, it is possible to adapt the composition and properties of PHBV to specific requirements.

This was demonstrated by Stef Ghysels – currently a doctoral researcher at Ghent University – in his master’s thesis that he completed at VITO in collaboration with Ghent University, and for which he was awarded the ‘Dow Chemical Prize for Innovative Solutions’.

Improving biotechnological processes

To increase the commercial feasibility of the bioconversion of CO2, an international consortium led by VITO will collaborate in the coming four years in the European Horizon 2020 project BioRECO2VER.