Exhaust fumes from fossil fuel burning and other combustion activities are the greatest contributor of greenhouse gases. Flue gases contain high concentrations of CO2 (approximately 5-25%) which could be reclaimed for growth of photosynthetic organisms. Ideally this would be used for growing high value plant products such as tomatoes and hemp. However, depending on the combustion feedstock, the gases may contain a variety of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in addition to high levels of CO2 and nitric oxide.
Microbes are fast growing and highly adaptable, offering vast genetic diversity of metabolic processes, some of which can be harnessed for uptake or conversion of more harmful substances present in flue gas. The advantages of using consortia lie in the robustness of the system. Broad specificity to different nutrients and cooperative interactions allow increased removal of a range of compounds. Having numerous players with diverging and overlapping ecosystem processes can give resistance, resilience and redundancy; allowing stable and efficient ecosystem functioning.
This project aims to engineer a consortium of microalgae and bacteria which is capable VOC removal from flue gas from municipal “green” waste, which contains a large fraction of treated wood, textile and plastic. This will produce gas that is optimal for growing high value plants in greenhouses, and algal biomass suitable for further biotechnological uses.