Catalyzing a zero-carbon world by harvesting energy from living cells
The imminent environmental crisis calls for an urgent transition to a green economy. A team of scientists at Nagoya University, Japan, led by Professor Susumu Saito, has recently found an interesting way to make this happen — by leveraging an important metabolic pathway in living cells. Their aim was to turn the energy-poor pathway products into biorenewable ones that can potentially power our world in a sustainable manner.
In most plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria, a pathway called the “Krebs cycle” is responsible for providing fuel for cells to carry out their functions. Operating in the mitochondria, this cycle ultimately results in the formation of both energy-rich compounds like NADH and FADH2 (which are used to power the organism) and energy-deficient metabolites like C4-, C5-, and C6-polycarboxylic acids (PCAs). Recently, the idea of modifying highly functionalized PCAs into biorenewable molecules has been explored, by restoring the carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds that were lost in their creation. This would need these biomolecules to undergo reactions called “dehydration” and “reduction,” that is, the reversal of the Krebs cycle — a complicated process.
In their new study, which was published in Science Advances, Prof Saito and his team rose to the challenge by aiming to find an artificial “catalyst,” a molecule that could facilitate this modification. They focused on a powerful, versatile precatalyst called “phosphine-bipyridine-phosphine (PNNP)iridium (Ir)-bipyridyl complex.” Prof Saito says, “Single-active-metal catalyst such as the (PNNP)Ir catalyst can facilitate the selective hydrogenation and dehydration of highly functionalized (highly oxidized and oxygenated) biomass feedstock like Krebs cycle metabolites.”
When the scientists tested the use of this precatalyst on C4-, C5-, and C6-polycarboxylic acids and other mitochondria-relevant metabolites, they found that the C-H bonds were incorporated effectively into the metabolites via hydrogenation and dehydration reactions — a feat otherwise very difficult to achieve. The restoration of C-H bonds means energy-rich organic compounds can be generated from energy-poor materials that are abundant in nature. Moreover, the reactions resulted in compounds called “diols” and “triols,” which are useful as moisturizing agents and in building plastics and other polymers. The sole “waste” product in this reaction is water, giving us a clean source of energy. Not just this, these complex processes could occur in a “one-pot fashion,” making this process efficient.
Prof Saito and his team are optimistic that their research will have important consequences for a future centered on renewable energy. Prof Saito says, “Wasteful carbon feedstocks like sawdust and rotten food contain a vault of different carboxylic acids and their potential derivatives. The molecular (PNNP)Ir catalyst can be used to make zero-emission materials. Many commodity plastics and polymer materials could be produced from biomass-based wasteful feedstock using the diols and triols obtained from the hydrogenation process.”
With these findings, a greener, more carbon-neutral society is surely in sight.
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Doom or boom faces the IT-BPM industryon January 26, 2021 at 8:05 am
The Philippines is unique from its regional neighbors. In stark contrast to Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, all of whom pursued industrialization as a way to foster prosperity, the Philippines ...
- Understanding The Value Of Artificial Intelligence Solutions In Your Businesson January 26, 2021 at 6:00 am
A starting point for any organization in AI solution deployment is to assess the current digital maturity of the organization.
- Sage report finds businesses response to COVID-19 a catalyst for driving increased HR valueon January 26, 2021 at 1:30 am
Sage (FTSE: SGE), the market leader in cloud business management solutions, today released the first in a new series of reports sharing how recent events have impacted the role, expectations, and ...
- UTSA holds virtual groundbreaking for School of Data Scienceon January 25, 2021 at 11:16 am
UTSA today marked the groundbreaking of its $90 million School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center, the first new building in a series planned as part of its Downtown Campus ...
- How artificial intelligence will transform the future of dentistryon January 25, 2021 at 10:12 am
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life in all kinds of ways, which has caused damage in a myriad of areas – including our oral health. The past year has ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- They can capture more carbon than they emit. So why aren't wooden buildings mainstream?on January 25, 2021 at 8:18 am
Four storeys high and made almost entirely of wood, the ZEB Lab building in Trondheim, Norway, had, even before it existed, sucked as much carbon from the atmosphere as it would probably produce in ...
- Achieving a net-zero emission supply chain could be cheaper than you thinkon January 25, 2021 at 12:35 am
For some industries, decarbonizing supply chains would add less than 4 percent to end-consumer costs in the medium term.
- 2020 was a breakthrough year for climate technology, with more to come in 2021on January 24, 2021 at 8:37 am
News Highlights: 2020 was a breakthrough year for climate technology, with more to come in 2021 Almost exactly 12 long, long months ago, I pontified the ...
- Researchers make domestic high-performance bipolar membranes possibleon January 21, 2021 at 9:46 am
The bipolar membrane, a type of ion exchange membrane, is considered the pivotal material for zero emission technology. It is composed of an anode and cathode membrane layer, and an intermediate ...
- How Zero-Emission, Solar-Powered Yachts Entered Boating’s Mainstreamon January 20, 2021 at 7:17 am
Yacht builders are designing zero-emissions yachts to compete with diesel-chugging rivals. They’re so quiet you can hear dolphins swim by.