Cyanobacteria - biodegradable plastics from flue gas

Many cyanobacteria can, under conditions of nutrient stress, store PHA as globules within their cells for energy and carbon storage.

(The classification of photoautotrophic cyanobacteria – are they microalgae or not? - is a moving feast. I will shortly be publishing some new pages on this website on the classification of microorganisms).

In March 2017, researchers at two Austrian organisations – the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences  and the centre of the COMET programme  bioenergy2010+ published an article in Bioengineering entitled “Cyanobacterial PHA production – review of recent advances and a summary of three years’ working experience running a pilot plant”. 

The article described setting up a tubular photobioreactor at a coal power plant and using the flue gas as a source of carbon dioxide for selected stains of cyanobacteria. Digestate from an anaerobic digestion facility was also successfully used as a nutrient source. The cells accumulated PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate), a type of PHA, under conditions of nitrogen and phosphorus depletion.

Synechocystis salina was found to be the best strain.

The three years of trials yielded useful data on how to optimise the process of PHB production.

This is another example of how waste carbon dioxide from flue gases can be supplied to microorganisms to produce valuable products and limit the release of the gas to the atmosphere.

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