Starch is one of the most important materials that is used in our daily lives. Food, paper, and everything in between are made up of that. The method of its production is done by plants, which is rather inefficient. A team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has made a process to transform CO2 into starch. It was revealed in a press release.
Scientists had tried making starch by using cellulose or sucrose with enzymes, but CO2 was never incorporated in the process. The report is published in Science. They used chemical catalysts and a combination of natural and engineered enzymes to convert CO2 to starch. This method is 8.5 times more efficient than that of the corn plants.
Firstly, CO2 is mixed with methanol. The enzymes then convert it into sugar and then to polymeric starch through enzymes. There are 11 core reactions involved.
“If the overall cost of the process can be reduced to a level economically comparable with agricultural planting in the future, it is expected to save more than 90 percent of cultivated land and freshwater resources,” explains Yanhe Ma, a microbiologist at the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology and corresponding author of the study.
However, there are some hindrances in scaling the method like manufacturing the right reactor. Still, the researchers believe that it is a new scientific foundation for future technologies that produce industrial quantities of starch from CO2. This could lead to the production of other important molecules from CO2. It will also help alleviate food shortages and reduce the use of hazardous pesticides and fertilizers.
“Next, we will focus on increasing the activity and stability of the enzymes we used to significantly decrease the cost for artificial starch synthesis,” Ma says.