Future of Food
Carbon Dioxide- the Superhero Molecule of the 21st Century
CO 2, a greenhouse gas that was once considered a villain has now become an uprising superhero, a hero on whom all of us are relying upon to save us and our planet. Innovators and promoters of sustainable development, across the globe, are now trying to capture excess CO 2 and turn it into meat, alcohol, concrete, fuel, plastics and whatnot. It seems nowadays everyone is trying to make everything out of CO 2.
How are they doing it?
A lot of research organizations and companies are building their sustainable production systems around a technology, generally referred as DAC- Direct Air Capture. This relatively new technology can be used to capture CO 2 from atmosphere, diluted gasses and distributed sources of carbon via industrial processes.
To keep it short and simple, this carbon capturing system consists of 3 main elements- contacting area, solvent or sorbent and regeneration module. The contacting area facilitates airflow through the model and allows sorbent access to ambient air, increasing the absorption/ adsorption of CO 2 molecules. These carbon dioxide molecules are then removed from solvent/sorbent through application of energy, while the regeneration module simultaneously regenerates the solvent/sorbent for re-use.
This technology is in early commercial stages. In addition to DAC, other approaches that have been suggested to capture CO 2 are Electrochemical CO2 Capturing and Ion-Exchange Resin method.
Food Companies using CO2 Capturing Systems
With growing global population, the demand for global food has also increased. That’s why, to ensure global food security, a lot of food startups have come up in the last few years and are working to develop food production systems using CO 2 capturing techniques. With this development, they’ll be able to produce food that is sustainable and relatively environment friendly.
Here are the few examples of organizations and innovators who are capturing the culprit of global warming- CO 2- and working on converting it into food products.
Air into alcohol
Vodka, a fairly tasteless and neutral spirit product, is made mainly from the fermentation and distillation of grains, potatoes, sugar beet, grapes or cassava- depending on the local availability and cost. But a U.S based team of innovators ( Air Co.) has found a new way to make alcohol, without any grains or grapes. They have been working to develop an electrochemical conversion system that’ll allow them to make vodka from air.
How they do it? They split water into hydrogen and oxygen. They make this hydrogen react with carbon dioxide (that they have captured) under the influence of a catalyst.
Then it’s simple, CO2 + H2 = H2O + Alcohol
They then take this ethanol (alcohol) and distill it (using solar energy) to make vodka. They fill the bottles manually and are now selling them only in person. Since, this company is operating locally; its distribution CO 2 emissions are very low.
Air into Meat
Companies like Air Protein are working to produce meat from air-made protein. They, like Solar Foods, are using single cell microorganisms to convert CO 2 into protein.
In the system developed by them, these single celled microorganisms, called hydrogenotrophs, along with air elements (like CO 2, O 2 and nitrogen), water and mineral nutrients work together to create protein. This protein is said to be tasteless and it has the same amino acid profile as of animal protein.
Air into fish-food
Novonutrients, another startup, has developed a system where they take industrial waste CO 2 and transform it into fish food protein using carbon removal technology.
Will it really work?
While it feels hopeful to know that so many companies are working to develop sustainable production systems, it is important to know that DAC will alone not be able to save us from climate change. The success of DAC depends on various other factors such as- market demand, consumer acceptability, and development of supporting technologies.
Originally published at https://seleswrites.blogspot.com on May 6, 2020.