Syngas (a gaseous mixture of CO, H2 and CO2) can be produced by gasification of organic waste materials or biomass, and its valorisation is foreseen as an important process in circular bioeconomy. Carbon monoxide is also produced as a waste gas in many industrial sectors (e.g. chemical, energy, steel). Often, the purity level of bio-based syngas and waste gases is low and/or the syngas composition is not sufficient for an economic chemical application (e.g. Fischer-Tropsch). Microbes have the capability to transform impure syngas to a broad spectrum of products. Syngas fermentation to ethanol has reached demo-scale, but fermentation to chemical building blocks is underexplored. Currently, there are three main bottlenecks in syngas bioconversion: 1) low CO conversion rates to CO, 2) limited product spectra, 3) reduced mass transfer rates of syngas.
This programme brings together a multidisciplinary team of microbiologists and (bio)process engineers to tackle these major gaps by:
1) Discovering novel microbes with high CO-conversion rates and resistance
2) Designing synthetic consortia or engineered microbes for the production of low-solubility molecules or volatiles
3) Evaluating, developing, and testing novel intensified high-cell density bioreactors with enhanced gas-liquid mass transfer and smart product recovery strategies.