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Leaf-inspired nanocellulose frameworks for next generation photosynthetic cell factories

Project description

More sustainable chemicals from photosynthetic cell factories

With the development of modern biotechnology, algal micro-organisms (used today in many fields) have strong potential as productive photosynthetic ‘cell factories’, especially important as a source of cheap renewable energy and chemicals. However, industrial algal biotechnology in solid-state cell factories needs new solutions for more efficient production. For this reason, the EU-funded FuturoLEAF project will combine the concept of a functional architecture from nanocellulose building blocks with the anatomy and functions designed on the principles of plant leaf anatomy to create a new algal-based biocatalyst technology efficient in capturing CO2 and producing solar-driven biofuels and chemicals. Maximising light utilisation, CO2 capturing and easing of logistical transportation of cell factories will enable high catalytic turnover time. The FuturoLEAF system will be tested and evaluated at technology readiness level 3.


FuturoLEAF envisions to exploit know-how in nanocellulose materials and cell biology to revolutionize the field of industrial algal biotechnology by conceptually renewing tailored solid-state cell factories. FuturoLEAF introduces algal-based biocatalysts with functional architecture formulated from nanocellulose building blocks and designed on the principles of plant leaf anatomy and function. Knowledge of bio-based materials science and photosynthesis will be integrated with achievements of synthetic biology and biomolecular engineering to conceive the new technology efficient in capturing CO2 and producing solar-driven biofuels and chemicals. The FuturoLEAF biocatalysts will gain high production efficiency by tailoring nanocellulose matrix performance with utilisation of its highly specific water interactions, resulting in tunable porosity and transport properties. Directed self-assembly as a tool to locate and attach photosynthetic cells in the matrix by their native interaction potential will further improve the performance. The system will maximise light utilization and CO2 capturing by providing controllable influx/efflux of moisture, gases, nutrients, products and substrates, leading to next generation photosynthetic cell factories with high catalytic turn-over time. In addition, the solid-state nature of the system will enable effortless logistical transportation of cell factories without having to move large amounts of water in contrast to current suspension cultures. The FuturoLEAF architecture will be tested under changing environment in a fixedbed high-cell density photobioreactor, which is designed for simulating behaviour of the plant with gas-to-liquid interphase production environment. The proof of the concept will involve evaluation of the approach at TRL3 level in a photobioreactor functioning in continuous mode. FuturoLEAF proposes a significant step away from dependency of fossil sources, towards sustainable energy and chemicals production.

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Net EU contribution
€ 946 856,25
02150 Espoo

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Manner-Suomi Helsinki-Uusimaa Helsinki-Uusimaa
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 946 856,25

Participants (6)