Recycling plastic and developing hybrid living materials by capturing greenhouse gases to produce value-added products (2023 ‒ 2026)
Project No. ES RTD/2023/12
Source of funding: M-ERA.Net project funded by the Latvia State budget funding within the scope of the funding programme “Support for participation in European Union's research and technology development programs”, Latvian Council of Science
Project period: 01.06.2023. – 31.05.2026. (36 months)
Total budget: 1 634 645 EUR
Project coordinator: Dr.-Ing. Rohan Karande, Leipzig University, Germany
Design and develop high-performance biobased materials such as hybrid living materials (HLMs) that effectively capture greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide and methane while producing microbial proteins as a value-added feed product.
Scientific and technological innovations aiming at reducing greenhouse gases and plastic waste while presenting a sustainable solution to the current feed production system are urgently needed to overcome issues concerning climate change, plastic pollution, and food insecurity. The REPLACER project tackles these challenges using an interdisciplinary collaboration of material science and engineering, biotechnology, physics, computer science, and mathematics for biomaterial development. This development is based on a revolutionary Design-Build-Test-Learn (DBTL) platform incorporating a closed-loop design principle using cross-cutting methodologies, technologies, and hybrid computational and artificial intelligence modelling tools.
This DBTL platform includes the following steps:
Design a tailormade 3D porous structure of composite (recycled) polyethylene terephthalate (PET) membrane modules to provide a scaffold with a high surface area to volume ratio (above 2000 m^2/m^-3).
Build a living composite by selecting microbial species with synergetic functions to grow them in biofilm format to develop Hybrid Living Materials (HLMs).
Test HLM growth using laser scanning microscopy and superresolution IR microscopy for biological and chemical analysis.
Learn based on data analysis and hybrid modelling tools to predict HLM performance with optimal membrane structure to maximize biofilm growth and volumetric biomass production rates.
The REPLACER project will exclusively use the DBTL platform to create HLMs that go beyond the current state of the art. Nevertheless, true integration of HLMs for biomass production requires scalable manufacturing paradigms in terms of improved material structures and protein production to demonstrate Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) potential.
The REPLACER project will dedicate efforts to scaling and designing HLM bioreactor prototypes to produce 1 kg per day of microbial biomass as a value-added feed product from mitigating GHGs, i.e., carbon dioxide and methane (TRL 4-5).
REPLACER developments for capturing GHGs, recycling plastic, and producing microbial proteins (MPs) will be evaluated from the viewpoint of economic, environmental, and societal sustainability using an eco-innovative approach. Overall, REPLACER developments contribute to the EU Commission's European Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan goals of developing advanced, resource-efficient technologies supporting a circular economy. In addition, REPLACER targets to mitigate GHGs, reduce plastic pollution, and produce value-added feed products, thus supporting several of the relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely SDG2-Zero hunger; SDG 9-Industrial innovation and infrastructure; SDG 12-Responsible consumption and production; and SDG 13-Climate action.