Research centre seeks to recycle CO2 into sustainable raw materials

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded €84.7 million for a new research centre to help reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and create CO2 recycling technologies.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation CO2 Research Centre will be based at Aarhus University in Denmark with six satellite institutions in the United States, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands.

Curbing the rise in global temperature requires more than reducing emissions of CO2. It is also necessary to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and recycle it in products that are currently based on carbon extracted from fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

The Centre will look at innovative solutions which will enable CO2 to be captured, processed and recycled as raw materials in new products.

Its interdisciplinary platform will combine various scientific fields such as chemistry, the life sciences and systems analysis, paving the way for scalable technologies that can efficiently capture and recycle CO2. Currently, there is no comparable research centre in the world.

For example, researchers will look at producing precursors for plastic from water, CO2 and electrons created by processing the captured CO2 with bacteria and electrochemistry. This may help replace fossil feedstocks such as oil and coal in producing plastic.

A facility will also be developed that uses microorganisms to convert CO2 into fuel. In this case, CO2 could also replace the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

It is hoped the Centre will accelerate developments in these areas so that technological solutions that currently look like distant dreams can become reality within a few years.

Foundation CEO Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen said: “The Novo Nordisk Foundation CO2 Research Centre sets out to become a powerhouse in our struggle against the global climate crisis. We need to act quickly and develop solutions that can help not only to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but also convert the harmful CO2 into valuable raw materials that can replace oil and coal, thereby creating negative CO2 emissions.”

Funding has been approved for the next seven years. Work starts on the Centre shortly and it is expected to become operational from January 2022.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. Its vision is to contribute significantly to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society.

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