A team of scientists from the NOVA Institute of Chemical and Biological Technology (ITQB NOVA) and the UCIBIO research unit at the NOVA School of Science and Technology (FCT NOVA) discovered an innovative protein with the ability to reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Researchers Inês Cardoso Pereira and Rita Oliveira (ITQB NOVA) and Maria João Romão and Cristiano Mota (UCIBIO - FCT NOVA) published a study in the scientific journal ACS Catalysis that indicates new ways to solve one of the biggest challenges for the planet's sustainability: carbon neutrality.
The CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is at the highest level in human history, and several countries around the globe are committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve that goal, global greenhouse gas emissions must be balanced with carbon dioxide capture. The main natural carbon sinks are soil, forests, and oceans, but these are not enough to reach carbon neutrality. It is crucial to find new catalysts, which can enable the reduction of CO2 into valuable compounds.
In this study. researchers have focused on the biochemical strategies Nature has developed to convert CO2, in order to design more efficient and sustainable catalysts. The researchers looked at Desulfovibrio vulgaris, a common bacterium in soils and marine environments and in the human intestine. This type of bacterium employs enzymes that transform carbon dioxide into a chemical fuel equivalent to hydrogen called format. The bacteria studied by the NOVA team is especially active in this function of reducing carbon dioxide and is unusually stable even in the presence of oxygen. «These characteristics make this enzyme an ideal model for the study of this mechanism and for the development of similar synthetic catalysts», explains UCIBIO researcher Maria João Romão.
Inês Cardoso Pereira, from ITQB NOVA, adds: «Understanding the functioning of this biological process with billions of years can give us the key to develop new technologies that can reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide».
The next step will be to modify the enzyme to improve it and be able to introduce it to the market.
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