Molecular machines to green industry
An EU-funded project is developing potent molecular machines that could cut the costs and environmental impact of industries as diverse as healthcare, manufacturing and energy. This could bolster EU efforts to promote cleaner industrial processes.
© sinhyu #164711664, 2018. Source: fotolia.com
The ROBOX consortium, involving almost 20 industrial, SME and academic partners across Europe, is bridging the gap between industry and scientific innovations that have achieved what was once thought impossible: changing the atomic structure of enzymes, the tiny biomolecular catalysts that are essential to life.
Enzymes exist everywhere in nature. They enable you to digest food and turn it into energy. And they also play a major role in many modern industries, enabling and accelerating production processes for medications, plastics, biofuels and even beer and soft drinks. But these potent catalysts of biological and chemical reactions have been hard to produce and use efficiently in commercial quantities.
ROBOX researchers are addressing this challenge by applying novel techniques to change the atomic structure of enzymes to make them more robust, powerful and suitable for a variety of processes in industry.
They are focusing on enzymes able to perform chemical reactions for the production and conversion of alcohols using oxygen from the air, with their atomic structures modified to enable them to function efficiently in industrial environments subject to extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressures.
By developing novel enzymes to power catalytic reactions in this way, ROBOXs interdisciplinary team aims to substantially reduce the need for environmentally harmful materials in a number of industrial processes, slash energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 60 percent and lower production costs by as much as 50 percent.
Coordinated by Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands, ROBOX is supported by leading experts, as well as state-of-the-art industrial facilities in Europe. These will underpin the scaling up of engineered enzyme processes to the commercial level over the coming year, targeting applications in markets such as pharmaceuticals, nutrition, materials, and fine and specialty chemicals.