Technical University of Denmark: DTU is part of the world’s first research center on CO2 capture

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has granted DKK 630 million to set up the world’s first research center on CO2 capture and production of new raw materials. The center, The Novo Nordisk Foundation CO2 Research Center, will be established at Aarhus University. In collaboration with DTU and a number of universities and companies, the center will develop knowledge and technology that can reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

“We are proud that DTU’s strong investment in the development of enzyme technology can contribute to the entire climate agenda. Life science technology has reached a level that makes it possible to utilize enzymes in new methods to capture, process, and recycle CO2 from our atmosphere and production facilities, and use it as raw materials in new products,” says DTU provost Rasmus Larsen.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation CO2 Research Center consists, in addition to the host university Aarhus University, of six satellite institutions in the USA, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. At DTU, the development of new effective enzymes for the new center is led by Professor Peter Westh at DTU Bioengineering. In addition, several industry partners and other international universities contribute to the center’s work.

Front runner in the fight against CO2
The CO2 Research Center will create an interdisciplinary platform that combines various scientific fields such as chemistry, the life sciences, and systems analysis. This research will pave the way for scalable technologies that can efficiently capture and recycle CO2. Currently, no research center in Denmark or internationally operates in this way towards solving the CO2 problem. The center will therefore be an absolute frontrunner in combatting rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

The center’s research encompasses four themes:

• CO2 capture.
• Chemical conversion of CO2 for recycling.
• Biobased conversion of CO2 for recycling.
• Systems analysis.

“The Center will bring together leading researchers across disciplines in pursuit of a common goal of finding methods that can reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. The fundamental research at the center will be inspired by extensive interaction with relevant industry partners. This will enable us to rapidly implement new technologies for the benefit of society,” says Alfred M. Spormann, the appointed Director of the Center, currently a professor at Stanford University.

Replaces oil, gas and coal
One solution the center will investigate is producing precursors for plastic from water, CO2, and electrons created by processing the captured CO2 with bacteria and electrochemistry. This solution will provide an opportunity to replace fossil feedstocks such as oil and coal in producing plastic.

Another technology the center will study is developing a facility that uses microorganisms to convert CO2 into fuel. In this case, CO2 could also replace fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.

The center’s establishment will accelerate these developments so that technological solutions that currently look like scenarios from the distant future can become a reality within a few years.

“The Novo Nordisk Foundation CO2 Research Center 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,” says Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation grant is awarded for 7 years. The center will start in autumn 2021 and is expected to be operational in Aarhus from January 2022.