Carbonic anhydrase is an enzyme that was first discovered in the 1930s in vertebrate erythrocytes playing an important role in respiration by influencing CO2 transport in the blood. During the past years, carbonic anhydrase has emerged as a biocatalytic tool for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere or from industrial emissions. The enzyme accelerates what it would take too long to observe in nature:
"The role of carbonic anhydrase in carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) will manifest enormous growth during the next years" predicts Paul Christakopoulos, professor and subject representative for the research group in biochemical process technology at Luleå University of Technology.
CO2 in gas form dissolves in a liquid solution and then hydrates into carbonic acid or bicarbonate. In this way, CO2 is absorbed in the liquid and is no longer available in the atmosphere.
"By using renewable methods e.g. biotechnology (enzymes and microorganisms) to capture and convert CO2 into biochemicals or biofuels we can create a carbon neutral cycle and alternatives to fossil-based products. CO2 is captured, converted to products which during their production and use might release CO2 back to the atmosphere. CO2 can be captured again, closing the carbon cycle" says Io Antonopoulou, assistant professor and researcher in biochemical process technology at the university.
Another route would be to capture CO2 and store it using groundbreaking technologies, achieving permanent storage and negative emissions.