New Zealand and Australia are looking to a more sustainable future by using green biotech to eschew the limited global reserves of non-renewable resources.
Creating butanone and 2-butanol from waste gases
University of Otago biochemists Dr Monica Gerth and Dr Wayne Patrick are working on a project that will enzymatically turn 2,3-butanediol into butanone and 2-butanol. They produce the precursor product in this research from waste carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases via a microbe licensed from Lanzatech. From there the research team is engineering new enzymes to convert 2,3-butanediol into these valuable chemicals, which are used in paints, varnishes, and synthetic rubbers such as car tyres. These chemicals are usually produced from petroleum, so this alternative approach offers the ability to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and the use of this unsustainable fuel.
Sustainable products from plant biomass
Leaf Resources Limited is commercialising its Glycell™ technology to pretreat plant biomass so that it yields a high amount and concentration of cellulose. The cellulose can then be used as a biomass feedstock for products including plastics, paper, fabric, and green chemicals. Once again an intriguing biological alternative to replace oil-derived products.
Crowdfunding biomass conversion
CarbonScape, a “carbon-refining company that uses forestry waste to make Green Coke” is currently raising money from investors via Snowball Effect, a New Zealand equity crowdfunding platform. The company reached its $400,000 target in mid-November and is currently in overfunding. They use a microwaving process to convert waste wood into Green Coke, a replacement for the traditional coking coal used in steelmaking furnaces. With several international awards under their belt, the company provides an elegant solution for mitigating climate change, an issue the World Steel Association describes as urgent and pressing for its global members.
By Emma Armitage, Business Analyst, BioPacific Partners