Keeping the world in power is not an easy task; in fact, it causes enormous environmental damage due to the widespread use of land, water, fertilizers, pesticides and fuel. From the use of everything from bread to paper, starch has a secure place on this list, but we rely on plants to produce it, which is quite inefficient. For a more sustainable approach, a team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has designed what they say is the first method to convert CO2 to starch more efficiently than plants, according to press release.
This is a significant breakthrough, as in the past it was difficult to accelerate photosynthesis in plants or to create artificial starch. While scientists have been able to make starch from plant cellulose or sucrose using enzymes, the use of CO2 has not been possible so far. The new technique reported in the study published in Science uses chemical catalysts and a carefully selected combination of natural and engineered enzymes to convert CO2 to starch 8.5 times more efficiently than corn plants.
This hybrid solution involves the initial reduction of CO2 to methanol using an organic catalyst. The methanol is then treated with engineering enzymes that convert it into sugar units, which are then converted to polymer starch. The complete process consists of only 11 basic reactions and is more effective than corn. The resulting synthetic starch, according to researchers behind it, has the same structure as real starch and can be made in a much smaller place.
“If the total cost of the process can be reduced to a level economically comparable to agricultural planting in the future, it is expected to save more than 90 percent of cultivated land and freshwater resources,” explains Yanghe Ma, a microbiologist at the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology and the relevant author of the study.
Although the method is far from increasing due to problems such as producing the right reactor, the researchers believe that the breakthrough offers a new scientific basis for future technologies that produce industrial quantities of starch. of CO2, potentially opening a new pathway for the synthesis of other complex gas molecules. This could help improve food security while reducing the use of environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Researchers want to focus on increasing the efficiency of technology in the future by working on improvements.
“We will then focus on increasing the activity and stability of the enzymes we used to significantly reduce the cost of artificial starch synthesis,” says Ma.