A university has been awarded £2.9m to fund research into low-carbon fuel.
The grant to the University of Nottingham is one of several made by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as it looks to tackle a range of social and environmental issues. In total, the organisation has invested £20m in six synthetic biology projects that will tackle global problems such as reducing the cost of industrial raw materials.
The project will see researchers focusing on using bacteria to consume carbon monoxide and turn it into useful chemicals and fuels.
Carbon monoxide is a waste product of industries such as steel manufacturing and oil refining. It can also be generated in the form of synthesis gas by the gasification (heating) of forestry and agricultural residues, municipal waste and coal.
Professor Nigel Minton, who will lead the research, said: “By allowing the use of all these available low-cost, non-food resources, such a process both overcomes the ‘food versus fuel’ issues associated with traditional ethanol production and circumvents many of the challenges associated with ‘second generation’ biofuels. The success of our project is dramatically enhanced by the participation of our commercial partner LanzaTech, a world leader in industrial gas fermentation.”
Some biofuels are generated through the conversion of plant materials, which has led to concerns as these products are also used as food.
The research will use synthetic biology approaches that do not require the consumption of food or land resources.