ICGEB, New Delhi, develops carbon-capturing green algal strain with Tata Steel Pvt Ltd. using synthetic biology.

Coal, petroleum, and conventional and unconventional natural gas comprise the majority of carbonaceous fuels, today’s world’s principal energy source. Cross-disciplinary collaborations and innovation can benefit the ecosystem-inspired carbon capture and utilization (CCU) not as a technology of the future but rather as today’s opportunity and mandate. Efforts towards a sustainable bio-based economy have focused on phototrophic hosts for producing chemicals from CO2 and light. Net Zero C emission has been promised by 2050 in Europe, while Indian PM Narendra Modi pledges Net Zero by 2070 in India at the COP26 Glasgow summit. Recycled CO2 products are now a multibillion-dollar growing market. Microalgae are highly efficient cellular factories in capturing CO2 from atmospheres. Natural microalgae can capture 1.8kg (1.8 tons) of CO2 from the atmosphere to produce 1kg (1 ton) of biomass, while steel manufacturing releases around 1.8 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere to make one ton of steel. The Metabolic Engineering Group, led by Dr Shashi Kumar at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi, has developed a super carbon-capturing green algal strain using synthetic biology tools in collaboration with Tata Steel Pvt Ltd. The synthetic microalgae were observed to thrive well in 10% CO2 by capturing 4X CO2 and producing 4X biomass, whereas natural algae die soon if exposed to more than 3% CO2. We are further testing the synthetic microalgae tolerance to 15% CO2, equivalent to industrial flue gas (containing 10-15% CO2). If the study is accomplished, synthetic microalgae shall be able to mitigate the carbon emissions from Industrial flue gases like Steel manufacturing, Coal Power, Cement, etc.
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