Creation of natural and sustainable chemical products by mimicking living organisms' metabolism
A Danish-led research project couples academia with industry to pave the way for sustainable production of chemicals. The Department of Engineering at Aarhus University is heading a new international and intersectoral project, which will create 100% pure, natural and sustainable chemical products by mimicking the metabolism of living organisms. The project is potentially ground-breaking for one of the world's most polluting industries.
With a grant of EUR 3.7 million from the EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, a researcher from Aarhus University (AU) has teamed up with 21 other European industries and universities in a major project that may have a decisive impact on the future chemical industry. The project is coordinated by Associate Professor Selin Kara, an expert in biocatalysis and bioprocess development from the Department of Engineering at AU, and it aims to replicate natural bioprocesses for use in the chemical industry; today one of the world's most polluting industries.
"Basically, with regard to what is possible to produce chemically, we're still lagging way behind nature. In this project, we're taking the first steps toward understanding the needs of complex multi-enzymatic reactions. In fact, nature has enormously complex and beautifully working multi-step reactions that are found in all living organisms," says Selin Kara.
Metabolism is a series of enzyme-catalysed reactions that make it possible for living organisms to grow and reproduce. Metabolic reactions therefore break down or build up the different substances necessary to ensure that the organism survives.
These reactions are organised in the so-called metabolic pathways, where a chemical substance is converted into another one through a large number of steps, and where each step is promoted by a specific enzyme.
And the perfection of these metabolic pathways is precisely what the researchers are interested in copying for industry.