Host: Prof. Christopher Lawson
The accelerating climate crisis combined with rapid population growth poses some of the most urgent challenges to humankind, all linked to the unabated release and accumulation of CO2 and waste across the biosphere. Rapid action is needed to drastically reduce waste carbon emissions. By harnessing our capacity to partner with biology, we can begin to take advantage of the abundance of available CO2 and waste carbon streams to transform the way the world creates and uses carbon and enable a circular economy.
LanzaTech’s mission is to create a post-pollution future where waste carbon is the building block from which everything is made and since inception in 2005 has pioneered the development of a gas fermentation for carbon-negative biomanufacturing. Gas fermentation using carbon-fixing microorganisms is a fully commercial carbon recycling process technology that transforms above-ground sustainable and waste carbon resources into fuels, chemicals, materials and nutritional products at a scale that can be truly impactful in mitigating the climate crisis. LanzaTech’s technology is like retrofitting a brewery onto an emission source like a steel mill or a landfill site, but instead of using sugars and yeast to make beer, pollution is converted by bacteria to fuels and chemicals. The technology offers an industrial approach to both enable manufacturing at its current scale, and achieve sustainability targets.
Compared to other gas-to-liquid processes, gas fermentation offers unique feedstock and product flexibility. The process can handle a diverse range of high volume, low-cost feedstocks. These include industrial emissions (e.g., steel mills, processing plants or refineries) or syngas generated from any resource (e.g., unsorted, and non-recyclable municipal solid waste, agricultural waste, or organic industrial waste), as well as CO2 with green hydrogen.
Only 15 years ago, carbon-fixing microbes were poorly understood and considered to be genetically inaccessible and gas mass-transfer seen as major hurdle. To unlock this biology for industrial use, LanzaTech has developed a state-of-the-art Synthetic Biology and AI platform as well as advanced bioprocessing and bioreactor technology. Today, LanzaTech has 3 commercial plants in operation, >500 chemical pathways designed and >300,000 tons of CO2 mitigated. This lecture will provide an insight into the LanzaTech journey from scrappy start-up to global technology leader through the commercialization of its gas fermentation process as a platform, and give a perspective on the future for the industry at large.
Dr. Michael Köpke is the Chief Innovation Officer at LanzaTech ($LNZA), a public company that uses biology to capture and transform carbon into sustainable products. Michael is a pioneer in synthetic biology of CO2-fixing microbes and carbon-negative biomanufacturing with 20 years of experience in the industrial biotech field. Since joining LanzaTech in 2009, Michael built up the company’s synthetic biology and computational biology capabilities and is responsible for LanzaTech’s innovation platform and technology partnerships.
Michael holds a Ph.D. in biotechnology from University of Ulm and is an inventor of over 500 patents and author of more than 50 peer-reviewed publications. Michael is also an awardee of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award for Greener Synthetic Pathways by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In addition to his role at LanzaTech, Michael also serves as an adjunct faculty position at Northwestern University and as council member at the Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC). At EBRC, Michael chairs the roadmapping working group and led the development of a technical roadmap on synthetic biology solutions for climate and sustainability as part of a group of over 90 scientists and other experts. Michael also serves on several editorial or scientific boards and chaired several workshops and international conferences.
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