Biomanufacturing with carbon capture and utilisation: A Zero Carbon Loss System

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


Nearly 140,000 industrial materials and chemicals are marketed worldwide. Most of them are made from fossil feedstocks with high CO2 emission embedded, and very low resources efficiency. To maintain the UK's global competitiveness, it is vital to identify sustainable alternatives for the manufacturing of these chemicals and materials.

Biomanufacturing, that utilises biological systems to produce commercially important biomaterials and biomolecules plays an important role in sustainable development, and has shown successful applications in manufacturing electronic components (e.g., bio-based flexible printed circuits), fine or specialty chemicals (e.g., bio-lubricants), building and construction (e.g., biocementation), consumer products (e.g., bio-based detergents), food (e.g., vitamin and amino acid fortification) and pharmaceuticals (e.g., vaccine production).

However, none of the current biomanufacturing routes has achieved zero carbon loss or emission. In fact, many bioprocesses (such as those involving fermentation) will emit large amounts of CO2. In a typical biomanufacturing, only 2/3 of the carbon resources flow ends up in final products, while the rest 1/3 are lost during the manufacturing process, in the form of CO2 emissions and residue wastes.

To address this challenge, the project will create the first-of-its-kind Zero Carbon Loss biomanufacturing system that will pave the way for the UK to reach the 2050 Net Zero target. This will be achieved by developing novel sustainable biomanufacturing of aromatics, heterocyclics and other lignocellulosics products with integrated carbon capture and utilization within the manufacturing process. These bio-based products, like building blocks of Lego, then will be used in different combinations to make various product such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, textile, composite materials, etc, with overall net zero carbon loss (emission and waste) throughout the manufacturing life cycle.

The technology innovation and resources optimisation of the BMCCU manufacturing route (WP1) will be guided by real-time system wide sustainability assessments (WP3), linked by an interoperable digital twin of the manufacturing process beyond the state of the art (WP2). It creates a new approach in which the lifecycle sustainability assessments will serve as an interactive decision-making tool fully embedded in the early-stage technology developments, rather than traditional retrospective assessment.

The project will contribute significantly to the UK's National Industrial Biotechnology Strategy, with a potential scope of £4.5 billion GVA, 63,000 jobs, and 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 saving per year by 2030.

To achieve the vision, this proposal brings together a diverse multidisciplinary team from Loughborough University, Heriot-Watt University and Imperial College London, with world leading expertise in circular economy, intelligent manufacturing, industrial digitalisation and decarbonisation.