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This pen, this phone and this shirt - what do they have in common? They are all made of plastic, which is made up of carbon atoms. At the moment we almost always get those carbon atoms from oil, petroleum, which is far from ideal. In the future, we will need to use these kinds of products longer or reuse them better for a more sustainable world. But we will still need new carbon. Where will we get it from? One obvious solution is CO2 from the air. It traps carbon atoms and we already have too much of it. But the challenge is to extract these carbon atoms from CO2 in an energy-efficient way. That is what I am researching and I am using bacteria to do it. Did you know that bacteria are already being used as cell factories, for example to make detergent ingredients from sugar? But there are also bacteria that use hydrogen and CO2 as an energy source and can make carbon molecules that we can use for plastics, for example. I am looking at how we can reprogramme these bacteria by changing their DNA a little bit. We modify them so that they need less energy and therefore less hydrogen to convert the CO2 into the carbon building blocks for plastics, for example. In this way, we can continue to make these products in the future, but using CO2 from the air with the help of bacteria.

MAKING PRODUCTS OF THE FUTURE FROM CO2 WITH BACTERIA
NICO CLAASSENSPROFILE
Wageningen University & Research

Nico Claassens wants to use bacteria to make plastics using CO2 from the air as a carbon source instead of (crude) oil.

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