AUG 29, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Plastics Created from Carbon Dioxide Instead of Petroleum

Credit: Pixabay

In a recent study published in Reaction Chemistry & Engineering, a team of researchers from Japan discuss how artificial photosynthesis can be used to convert carbon dioxide into biodegradable plastic. Since petroleum is traditionally used to make such plastics, this study has the potential to reduce our need for fossil fuels while cleanly recycling materials.

For the study, the researchers successfully created fumarate, which is currently utilized to develop biodegradable plastic, by combining carbon dioxide with pyruvate (created from biomass) with two biocatalysts: malate dehydrogenase and fumarase. Since this potentially replaces petroleum as one of the ingredients, this method could be highly desirable.

"The biocatalysts were used to convert CO2 into a raw material for plastic,” said Dr. Yutaka Amao, Director of the Research Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at Osaka City University in Japan. “Based on our results, we will continue to construct better CO2 conversion systems with an even lower environmental impact; we are aiming for more efficient conversion of CO2 into useful substances, using light energy."

The researchers’ next goal is to produce fumarate using light as energy. If this technology can be expanded, it opens the doors to create artificial photosynthetic systems capable of creating useful macromolecules from carbon dioxide.

Petroleum, also known as crude oil, is a fossil fuel created from the remains of ancient marine organisms, such as algae, plants, and bacteria. It can be found in large underground reservoirs once occupied by ancient seas. While petroleum has become an important part of our everyday lives, to include making gasoline, tires, and refrigerators, it has also contributes to climate change as a greenhouse gas. If we are to become less reliant on fossil fuels, this study could open the doors for a greener, cleaner future.

Sources: Reaction Chemistry & Engineering, National Geographic, World Wide Fund For Nature

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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