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Lessons on conversion of CO2 to raw materials for plastic

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Source: MakeLemonade.nz

Tokyo – Osaka Metropolitan University researchers have successfully synthesised fumarate or fumaric acid, a raw material for unsaturated polyester resin, by combining carbon dioxide  with pyruvate derived from biomass

Fumarate is currently used to make biodegradable plastic like polybutylene succinate from petrol.  If this technology can be realised, it will create a new artificial photosynthetic system to synthesize useful macromolecules from CO2.

This research has enabled the synthesis of fumarate without petrol, consuming only CO2 and biomass-derived pyruvate.

In plants, natural photosynthesis binds carbon dioxide (CO2) to organic compounds, which can then be converted into glucose or starch.

These useful molecules can be sequestered, storing the carbon in a solid form. Artificial photosynthesis mimics this process by reducing the greenhouse gas CO2, the main cause of climate change, which is converted into other useful substances.

Osaka researchers in Japan have managed to successfully create fumarate using artificial photosynthesis on pyruvate and CO2.

Fumarate can be used to make biodegradable plastic like polybutylene succinate, storing the carbon in a compact, durable, solid form.

Currently, most fumarate used to make this plastic is produced from petroleum, so creating fumarate from C02 and biomass-derived pyruvate is highly desirable.

Professor Yutaka Amao from the and Mika Takeuchi, a graduate student at the Osaka Metropolitan University Graduate School of Science, used the biocatalyst oxaloacetate-decarboxylating to combine CO2 with pyruvate.

This produced L-malic acid. Subsequently, the biocatalyst fumarase was used to dehydrate the L-malic acid to synthesize fumarate.

The biocatalysts were used to convert CO2 into a raw material for plastic. Based on the results, the researchers will continue to construct better CO2 conversion systems with an even lower environmental impact.

They are aiming for more efficient conversion of CO2 into useful substances, using light energy.

With this success, the team has already begun researching new methods of artificial photosynthesis with the goal of producing fumarate using light as energy.