Reduction of carbon emission to the atmosphere has become a key target to preserve the planet from its dramatic effects. The EU aims to become the first climate-neutral bloc by 2050, but development of novel carbon capture technologies, and a shift towards sustainable production of chemicals, are required to reach such ambitious goal. Microbial electrosynthesis (MES), in which CO2 is biologically converted to carboxylates and/or alcohols, enables reduction of carbon emissions whilst producing green chemical products. To date, acetate is the main compound produced from CO2 via MES, whereas more valuable caproate has been only produced at low concentrations due to product toxicity and thermodynamic limitations. The “atMESphere” project aims to push MES towards commercialisation by implementing a novel, resilient and sustainable biorefinery concept for selective production, extraction and concentration of caproate from CO2. In a first stage, the operation conditions in MES cells (including microbial consortia, pH, H2 partial pressure, and carbon availability) will be investigated and fine-tuned to obtain, for the first time, selective, high-rate caproate production from CO2. Then, a novel two-stage purification process, comprising of extraction through silicone membrane and concentration by shock electrodialysis, will be developed and integrated to the optimised MES cell, through a recirculation loop, to achieve selective separation of caproate, which has several applications in the energy, food and chemical industry. This project is highly interdisciplinary, involving tools, approaches and expertise from engineering, microbiology, electrochemistry, biotechnology, and membrane technology, and the experienced researcher will receive high-quality training on both scientific and horizontal skills. Dissemination, communication and exploitation activities have been planned to reach the most diverse audiences, and ensure commercial relevance of the proposed technology.
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