Bacterial populations to accelerate resource recovery from carbon monoxide as 2022 Lettinga Award winner

We are excited to announce that the 2022 Lettinga Award is won by the project “COACE: An innovative system for closing carbon cycles” submitted by Dr. Rhiannon Chalmers-Brown. The judges found the potential impact of the research great if proven successful. Innovations like these can make the polluting, yet essential steel manufacturing industry more sustainable.

This year’s Lettinga Award call was for “Innovative technological systems, that include anaerobic processes, for closing cycles”. The winner was announced during the closing ceremony of the IWA Anaerobic Digestion conference in Ann Arbor, Mi, USA, on June 22nd, 2022.

The submitted project concerns the application of anaerobic fermentation surplus gases from steel manufacturing to volatile fatty acids (VFAs). Steel manufacturing is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, including large volumes of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. These carbon containing gases can be utilized to produce building block chemicals and reduce the impact that steel manufacturing has on the environment. The COACE process includes a novel extraction system that enables the in-situ extraction of VFAs, whilst recovering and reusing essential nutrients for bacterial growth and maintaining the reactor pH. The project is executed on a pilot scale at the steel industry.

The objective of this project is to investigate the bacterial populations and fermentation metabolisms occurring during the fermentation of blast furnace gas using mixed cultures. Discoveries in this field could lead to significant technological advancement and industrial deployment of fermentation technologies for carbon capture and utilization. A deeper understanding of the mixed cultures present could lead to more efficient bioreactors, able to convert large volumes of gas.

The Lettinga Award, a cash prize of €10,000 is an initiative of the Lettinga Foundation. It is awarded to stimulate the development and implementation of innovative anaerobic digestion ideas. It is a biannual Award that is organized each year when an IWA Anaerobic Digestion congress is held. The sponsors of the Lettinga Award 2022 are Biothane, LeAF and Paques.

The project idea was submitted by Rhiannon Chalmers-Brown. Dr Chalmers-Brown is a RICE research assistant at the Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC) at the University of South Wales, UK.

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