The SBRC-Nottingham is one of six synthetic biology research centres established by the UK Research councils BBSRC and EPSRC.
Our centre concentrates on engineering bacteria to make industrially-useful products from the waste greenhouse gases: principally carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, but with an interest in methane.
Our ambition is to reduce the need for petrochemicals by creating the technologies required to implement a sustainable bioeconomy. Hence, we are developing genetic tools to enable us to engineer existing species of bacteria into industrially useful strains capable of efficiently synthesising chemicals that are currently provided from fossil fuels.
The process is somewhat analogous to yeast fermentation that converts sugar into ethanol. Our bacteria are grown in sealed vessels and this facilitates the conversion of waste gas into ‘fixed carbon’ products through ‘gas fermentation’.
Such products include:
- 3-hydroxy-proprionic acid
Our feedstocks are CO2 and CH4. Why? Because, the UK doesn’t have ready access to vast amounts of biomass or sugar surpluses that it can convert into biochemicals and biofuels. Using waste greenhouse gas is a practical solution for greening the UK economy.
This gas is available from anaerobic digestion, from landfill and from gasification of municipal solid waste. It is also available from industrial sources which still rely on fossil fuels: off-gas from steel mills is rich in CO2 and CO. This approach enables a wide range of valuable advanced fuels and chemicals to be produced in any industrialized geography without consumption of valuable food or land resources.
We need to stop thinking of CO2 as a waste but as a resource and our feedstock for a sustainable bioeconomy.
To convert our chosen bacteria into mini-factories that convert greenhouse gases into the chemicals we all rely on in everyday life, we have brought together over 100 research scientists and PhD students into SBRC-Nottingham. They work on many aspects of related problems, and whilst some projects are not themselves focused on gas fermentation, the research projects cross-feed each other.
The SBRC has a wealth of dedicated new equipment, bespoke facilities, cohorts of PhD studentships and many existing international research and industry connections.
The other five centres each have their own specific research remits: