MatSciCon2023: Natural photosynthesis teaches us about the conversion of CO2 into raw materials for plastic.

 Malate dehydrogenase and fumarase were used as biocatalysts in the effective synthesis of fumarate (fumaric acid), a component of unsaturated polyester resin, by mixing carbon dioxide (CO2) with pyruvate (obtained from biomass). Currently, petroleum is used to create fumarate, which is utilised to create biodegradable plastic like polybutylene succinate. But thanks to this research, fumarate may now be produced using only CO2 and pyruvate from biomass instead of petroleum.

Natural photosynthesis occurs in plants and involves the binding of carbon dioxide (CO2) to organic substances that can later be transformed into glucose or starch. Sequestering these beneficial molecules allows for the storage of carbon in solid form. Artificial photosynthesis imitates this process by lowering the greenhouse gas CO2, which is transformed into other beneficial compounds and is the primary driver of climate change.

Fumarate was produced by Osaka Metropolitan University researchers utilising synthetic photosynthesis on pyruvate and CO2. Making biodegradable plastic like polybutylene succinate from this fumarate allows for the storage of carbon in a solid, robust, and compact form. It is highly desirable to synthesise fumarate from CO2 and biomass-derived pyruvate because the majority of the fumarate now used to make this material comes from petroleum.

Mika Takeuchi, a graduate student at the Graduate School of Science at Osaka Metropolitan University, and Professor Yutaka Amao of the Research Center for Artificial Photosynthesis used the biocatalyst malate dehydrogenase (oxaloacetate-decarboxylating) to combine CO2 with biomass-derived pyruvate to create L-malic acid. The biocatalyst fumarase was then employed to dehydrate the L-malic acid in order to create fumarate.

"The biocatalysts were employed to transform CO2 into a plastics raw material. Based on our findings, we will continue to develop CO2 conversion systems that have even less of an impact on the environment; we are looking for more effective CO2 conversion utilising light energy, "Prof. Amao added.

With this achievement, the team has already started looking into additional artificial photosynthesis techniques in an effort to generate fumarate using light energy. If this method is successful, a new artificial photosynthetic system will be developed to produce valuable macromolecules from CO2.

Story Origin: 

The Osaka Metropolitan University donated the materials. There may be length and style edits to the content.

Journal citation 

Yutaka Amao and Mika Takeuchi. Fumarate is produced biocatalytically from pyruvate and CO2 as a feedstock. 10.1039/D2RE00039C; Reaction Chemistry & Engineering, 2022


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