On paper, it is a logical method. Carbon – the C in CO₂ - is the main ingredient of hundreds of basic substances used in the chemical and broad industry sectors. By capturing and converting CO₂ from the stack, the greenhouse gas can be kept out of the atmosphere and used to produce useful raw materials. This is the essence of climate solutions known as carbon capture & utilization (CCU).
The practice is a lot more complex than the theory. CO₂ is a very stable molecule, which means that a lot of energy is needed to convert it into another molecule. Such a process therefore only yields climate benefits when renewable energy, not energy from fossil sources, is used.
VITO uses biotechnology for the conversion. An advantage of this method is that the conversion can take place under relatively mild conditions, such as a lower temperature. “Thanks to biotech, it’s possible to make relatively complex molecules, such as organic acids and polymers,” explains Heleen De Wever, who leads a team at VITO that specializes in biotechnological solutions to make industrial processes more sustainable and efficient.