Ingenuity Lab Carbon Solutions is an integral part of Ingenuity Lab, which is a provincially funded nanotechnology initiative situated at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. The organization has put together a carbon transformation team that combines the expertise of engineers, biochemists, chemists and fermentation specialists. By utilizing their collective multidisciplinary talents, we hope to produce a scalable, artificial photosynthetic bioreactor. Our intent is that this technology will not only function as a large scale reactor suitable for industrial carbon footprint reduction but also have translational commercial applications for use in smaller, confined spaces as an atmospheric cleaner or carbon dioxide scrubber. To this end, we have synthetically produced the dozen enzymes involved in maintaining a continuous, self-sustaining Calvin cycle and have successfully developed a working prototype.
Our approach borrows from what occurs naturally, namely photosynthesis. By utilizing the enzymes within plants, we are able convert atmospheric carbon dioxide to innocuous sugars by capturing a small amount of sunlight as an energy source, which is required to regenerate the consumable cycle cofactors ATP and NADH. If needed, a solar rechargeable battery could be used to produce enough light to run the reactor in the dark or at night and operate the control systems. The system is extremely environmentally friendly. All of the naturally occurring proteins used to run the reactor are produced by bacteria using recombinant DNA technology and are all biodegradable. The substrates we are currently using for immobilization are made of silicon dioxide or sand. Everything is self-contained, the same way it is within the leaf of a plant, and like plants there are no hazardous waste materials produced. By adapting the cycle, we further hope to convert these sugars to other chemicals with alternative industrial applications.