Luleå University of Technology is the only Swedish university participating in the prestigious EU-funded research project BioRECO2VER, which takes place in close cooperation with process industries in Europe. The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from industries by using large scale and environmentally friendly methods.
– Our mission is to demonstrate that we can capture and separate carbon dioxide from flue gases with biochemical methods we have developed. Other researchers in Europe will then transform carbon dioxide to chemicals and show that this works on a larger scale, says professor Ulrika Rova.
Later this year, gas cylinders with compressed flue gas will be sent to Luleå University of Technology from a refinery, Orlen in Poland and a cement producer Cementos Portland Valderrivas in Spain.
– We are the only research group in this major collaboration that will capture carbon dioxide from flue gases, and we do it with the help of enzymes, says Ulrika Rova.
The research conducted at Luleå University of Technology is the first step in the European project. Ulrika Rova and her colleagues Paul Christakopoulos and Magnus Sjöblom have developed an applicable technology for carbon dioxide separation from flue gases by using efficient enzymes that provide high capture rates and high stability in extreme environments, such as flue gases. The researchers want to optimize this technology by developing new enzymes that are more resistant to the process conditions.
The aim of BioRECO2VER is to demonstrate that it possible to, in a large scale, capture carbon dioxide directly from industries, in order to convert carbon dioxide into valuable platform chemicals like lactate and isobutene.
The European Union has a goal to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 (compared with the emission levels from 1990). The ambition level requires sharp reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the sectors mainly responsible for Europe's emissions: power generation, industry, transport and construction, as well as agriculture.
– It is very important for us researchers to collaborate directly with major leading industries in Europe, says Ulrika Rova.
Absorb larger amounts
In another project funded by the Swedish Energy Agency, the Luleå researchers, in cooperation with Jyri-Pekka Mikkola, professor of industrial chemistry at Umeå University, will further develop the technology. The focus is on developing more cost- and energy-efficient solvents that can absorb larger amounts of carbon dioxide faster than conventional amine-based solvents can do. The project, led by Magnus Sjöblom, is a collaboration within Bio4Energy.
In a third project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, the research team works to develop innovative methods for selectively converting carbon dioxide and renewable electricity into ethanol using microorganisms.
– An attractive form of energy storage is liquid fuel with a high energy density that can be effectively transported, says Ulrika Rova.
The researchers from Luleå University of Technology involved in all these three projects are Magnus Sjöblom, researcher in Biochemical process engineering, Ulrika Rova, professor of Biochemical process engineering, and Paul Christakopoulos, professor of Biochemical process engineering.
Text: Katarina Karlsson and Richard Renberg.