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Artificial photosynthesis uses CO2 to create biodegradable plastics

Professional Engineering

The artificial photosynthesis technique uses visible light and carbon dioxide (Credit: Shutterstock)
The artificial photosynthesis technique uses visible light and carbon dioxide (Credit: Shutterstock)

A new artificial photosynthesis technique has produced a key component of biodegradable plastics.

Aimed at tackling the twin environmental problems of greenhouse gas-caused climate change and plastic pollution, the method was developed by researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University in Japan.

Using a visible light-driven redox system, biomass-derived compounds and gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2), the technique produces chemicals which are converted to fumaric acid – a component of biodegradable plastics such as polybutylene succinate, which is commonly used for food packaging.

In a previous study, a research team led by Professor Yutaka Amao of the Research Centre for Artificial Photosynthesis demonstrated the synthesis of fumaric acid from bicarbonate and pyruvic acid, a biomass-derived compound, using solar energy. They also succeeded in producing fumaric acid using CO2. The yield remained low, however.

In the latest work, the researchers developed a new photosensitizer, a light absorber that turns light into usable energy. They also advanced an artificial photosynthesis technique that doubles the yield of fumaric acid compared to conventional methods.

“This is an extremely important advancement for the complex bio/photocatalyst system. It is a valuable step forward in our quest to synthesize fumaric acid from renewable energy sources with even higher yields, steering us toward a more sustainable future,” said Professor Amao.

The work was published in Dalton Transactions.

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