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Researchers to tailor 3D-printed living materials for converting light and carbon dioxide into chemicals – receives over €2 million in funding

The PhotoFactory project will address today’s environmental challenges by tackling the most sustainable process in nature: converting light and carbon dioxide into chemicals through photosynthesis. The initiative is funded with over €2 million by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, of which part goes to Åbo Akademi University.

To achieve the goal of becoming a zero-emission society by 2035, Finland aims to replace fossil resources currently used for fuels, chemicals and materials with renewable alternatives. Therefore, nature-based and nature-inspired solutions and technologies for the sustainable production of fuels, chemicals and materials are of immense interest.

The photosynthetic microbes found in algae and cyanobacteria, for example, have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using light energy. This makes them central to limiting global climate change – for example, 1 kg of microalgae can sequester 1.8 kg of carbon dioxide.

The overall goal of the PhotoFactory project is to develop a data-guided, intelligent, next-generation production platform that takes advantage of photosynthesis. In practice, this means that the platform’s process will be able to utilise light that is normally lost in the energy process. It will further control gases, water consumption and various nutrient flows that can then be used to produce volatile biofuels (H2), chemicals (ethylene) and whole-cell photobiotransformation in the long term.

The PhotoFactory will combine expertise in photosynthesis and synthetic biology with material and 3D printing. The ambition is to improve bioproduction efficiency by using algae and cyanobacteria to produce solar-powered products within the circular bioeconomy concept.

The project is coordinated by the University of Turku and led by Professor Yagut Allahverdiyeva-Rinne. A total of EUR 2.256 million is being funded by the Jane and Atos Erko Foundation. More than 600,000 euros of the total amount will go to Professor Chunlin Xu‘s group at Åbo Akademi University.