Engineering and Technology
Sustainable development requires balanced integration of four basic human needs – air (O2/CO2), water, food, and energy. To solve key challenges, such as CO2 fixation, electricity storage, food production, transportation fuel production, water conservation or maintaining an ecosystem for space travel, we wish to suggest the electricity-carbohydrate-hydrogen (ECHo) cycle, where electricity is a universal energy carrier, hydrogen is a clean electricity carrier, and carbohydrate is a high-energy density hydrogen (14.8 H2 mass% or 11-14 MJ electricity output/kg)carrier plus a food and feed source. Each element of this cycle can be converted to the other reversibly & efficiently depending on resource availability, needs, and costs. In order to implement such cycle, here we propose to fix carbon dioxide by electricity or hydrogen to carbohydrate (starch) plus ethanol by cell-free synthetic biology approaches. According to knowledge in the literature, the proposed artificial photosynthesis must be operative. Therefore, collaborations are urgently needed to solve several technological bottlenecks before large-scale implementation.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Copyright: doi.org/10.1038/npre.2010.4167.1 © 2010 copyright