25 January 2013 – Progresses has been announced in developing an advanced microbiological pathway to convert CO2 to fuels and chemicals. Most biofuels are produced from plants or algae through photosynthesis; however, photosynthesis is an inefficient process. Electrofuels bypass photosynthesis altogether by using microorganisms that don’t need sunlight to grow or produce biofuels.DNV Research and Innovation has announced significant progress in collaboration with Gingko Bioworks in this direction.

These microorganisms directly use energy and carbon from electrolytically-derived formate to produce liquid fuels from carbon dioxide (CO2). Such a process is much more efficient than photosynthesis. Electrolytic production of formate from CO2 can use electricity from a variety of renewable sources. The flexibility of electricity and the avoidance of the need for direct sunlight translate to greater flexibility in the location of such an electrofuel facility.

Ginkgo has validated that its genetically modified microbes can use a feedstock of formate produced from CO2 by DNV. DNV’s Ecform process has met many of the metrics required for successful commercialisation of the electrolytic production of formic acid and formate salt from CO2. The combination of Ginkgo’s engineered microbes and DNV’s demonstration-scale reactor technology represent the largest step towards scale-up of electrofuels production to date.