A consortium, including LanzaTech and Danone, led to the discovery of a new route to monoethylene glycol, (MEG), which is a key building block for polyethylene terephthalate, (PET), resin, fibers and bottles. The technology converts carbon emissions from steel mills or gasified waste biomass directly into MEG. The carbon capture technology uses a proprietary engineered bacterium to convert carbon emissions directly into MEG through fermentation, bypassing the need for an ethanol intermediate, and simplifying the MEG supply chain. The direct production of MEG was proven at laboratory scale and the presence of MEG was confirmed by two external laboratories.
“We have made a breakthrough in the production of sustainable PET that has vast potential to reduce the overall environmental impact of the process,” said Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “This is a technological breakthrough which could have significant impact, with applications in multiple sectors, including packaging and textiles!”
While there is no organism in nature known to produce MEG, through this proof-of-concept stage, LanzaTech has used Synthetic Biology and AI tools to discover multiple novel pathways to make MEG directly from carbon emissions. By combining and prototyping various sets of enzymes identified from different sources in novel ways, LanzaTech has successfully reprogrammed its ethanol producing bacteria to fix and channel carbon into MEG.
This early-stage proof of concept work shows for the first time that it is possible for a bacterium to directly produce MEG from gas. By producing MEG directly, the new technology avoids the multiple processing steps required to convert ethanol into ethylene, then ethylene oxide and then to MEG. LanzaTech anticipates that when scaled successfully after a multiyear development phase, the direct production process will lead to PET bottles and PET fibers with a reduced environmental impact.
LanzaTech is partnering with leading companies to improve the environmental impact of packaging. Given the success of this proof-of-concept phase, LanzaTech, with the support of Danone, plans to continue the scale-up phase of its direct-to-MEG technology.
“We have been working with LanzaTech for years and strongly believe in the long-term capacity of this technology to become a game changer in the way to manage sustainable packaging materials production. This technological collaboration is a key enabler to accelerate the development of this promising technology,” said Pascal Chapon, Danone R&I Advanced Techno Materials Director.
LanzaTech harnesses the power of biology and big data to create climate-safe materials and fuels. With expertise in synthetic biology, bioinformatics, artificial intelligence and machine learning coupled with engineering, LanzaTech has created a platform that converts waste carbon into new everyday products that would otherwise come from virgin fossil resources. LanzaTech’s first two commercial scale gas fermentation plants have produced over 30 million gallons of ethanol, which is the equivalent of offsetting the release of 150,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Additional plants are under construction globally.
LanzaTech and partners, InEnTec, Waste Management and lululemon, are now progressing the technology to apply and scale up the technology for upcycling of non-recyclable plastic waste and apparel to MEG, with support from the US Department of Energy. LanzaTech is based in Illinois, USA.
As announced on March 8th, 2022, LanzaTech has entered into a merger agreement with AMCI Acquisition Corp. II (Nasdaq: AMCI). Upon closing of the transaction, the combined company will be renamed LanzaTech Global, Inc. and its common stock is expected to be listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “LNZA”.
Danone is a leading multi-local food & beverages company building on health-focused and fast-growing categories in 3 businesses: Essential Dairy & Plant-Based products, Waters and Specialized Nutrition. As a company committed to protecting and nourishing the health of the planet and people, Danone works to offer nutritious, high-quality food and drinks in packaging that is 100% circular. This means eliminating the packaging it does not need, innovating so all the packaging it needs is designed to be safely reused, recycled or composted and ensuring the material it produces stays in the economy and never becomes waste or pollution.
Danone works with numerous actors within the value chain – suppliers, peers, breakthrough technology companies, waste management companies, etc. – to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and reduce its carbon footprint.