NESSE Webinar – Reverse Photosynthesis: A Game Changer In The Industrial Production of Fuels and Chemicals

Editor’s Note: Read about our webinar, hosted at 17:00 GMT on Monday 5th December 2016 by  David Cannella from the Unviersity of Copenhagen based on an article recently published in Nature Communications. Click here to attend the webinar!

Cellulosic biomass conversion into biofuels (ethanol) had for many years led the forefront research. Today we renamed these as advanced fuels, and despite several successful industrial demonstration plant applications, little of these products reach out the society. The reason is mainly due to the market competition against fossil fuels. Seeking new and more efficient ways of converting the renewable lignocellulosic biomass with enzymes into chemical building blocks (sugars and phenols), the energy of sunlight has been applied for accelerating the activity of the key role enzyme LPMO. LPMO or Lytic Polysaccharide Monooxygenase is a redox enzyme which cut the cellulose chains via an oxidation reaction: consuming a molecule of dioxygen and with the expenses of 2 electrons it cut the cellulose chain releasing one molecule of water. Working in synergy with hydrolytic cellulases, LPMO accelerates the conversion of cellulose to glucose or if used alone produce an array of oligosaccharides. LPMO is now a key component of industrial cellulase cocktails. Here it will be presented a new way of accelerating the activity of LPMO via transferring the electrons from the antenna pigments (chlorophyllin or thylakoids) upon excitation with sunlight. Given the utilization of plant photosynthetic components (pigments) and the consumption of their products (dioxygen and carbohydrate) this technology has been called in popular terms “reverse photosynthesis”.            

David Cannella is a biotechnologist granted by the Danish Research Council for independent research (DFF), with a strong interest in sustainable conversion of biomass in valuable products and energy. Graduated at University of Rome-Sapienza, has obtained his PhD in second generation biofuels production at University of Copenhagen, Denmark where is now enrolled as PostDoc. His multidisciplinary approach to research regards a mix of biochemistry, microbiology, bioprocesses integration, analytical chemistry and lately photo-biochemistry. At today he is seeking at light powered enzymatic biomass transformation into chemicals or food additives, and at the confirmation of the so “imprecisely called reverse photosynthesis” processes happening in Nature. He has been visiting various research institutes: CTBE-Brazil, Chalmers University-Sweden, University of Rome Sapienza-Italy.