Whether it’s indoor or outdoor air quality, it seems that more and more biotech companies are looking to tackle air quality issues, in hopes of helping tackle climate change or helping prevent further pandemics like COVID-19.
We recently saw frightening levels of air pollution in North America due to the wildfires in Canada, which record-breaking carbon dioxide emissions during May and the first few days in June. Mostly started by lightning, forest fires have been fueled by climate change, as a temperature increase of one degree celsius. creates about 12% more lightning.
Climate change and air pollution are intrinsically linked, and one of the main causes of air pollution today is carbon dioxide emissions. Released when we burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, having too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere warms the planet, causing global warming.
Biotechnology gives us an opportunity to solve this problem, with more and more biotech companies focusing on capturing carbon dioxide emissions from our atmosphere and turning them into something else, whether that be food or jet fuel.
Meanwhile, many air quality biotechnology companies are also focusing on improving indoor air quality, using technologies such as genetically engineered plants to create air purification systems that can capture pollutants from the air that may be difficult to remove using standard air purifiers. .
In this article, we take a look at five air quality biotechnology companies that are looking to make a positive impact on the air we breathe every day.
Deep Branch is very focused on sustainability, and aims to address two major issues at once: the lack of sustainability in livestock farming and carbon dioxide emissions. To achieve this, it uses clean and renewable sources of carbon and energy to create the ingredients for a more sustainable food system.
To recycle carbon, the company uses microbes, converting carbon dioxide from industrial emissions into high-value products, with the first product being a single-cell protein developed for the animal feed industry, called Proton.
To make Protons, Deep Branch has a gas fermentation platform called (R)evolve. The vessel is filled with an electrolyte solution, before non-GMO microbes are added, followed by carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen gas, to prepare the culture. Then, after continuous cultivation to reach a steady state, Proton was finally created, which the company says will provide a stable, competitively priced, sustainable supply of macro-ingredients and optimal nutrition offering 90% savings on carbon footprint.
Claiming to have invented the technology that can transform pollution and ensure that humans will be able to continue to prosper into a post-polluted future, air quality company LanzaTech is also focusing on recycling carbon into useful, profitable and sustainable products, using bacteria to convert pollution into fuel. and chemicals.
The company has three ethanol plants in China that use its technology to capture emissions before they reach the air, instead of diverting the gases into a bioreactor, where they are fermented into ethanol using microorganisms. The ethanol is then converted into other materials, such as clothing and aircraft fuel.
So far, the company has produced more than 40 million gallons of ethanol, which means it has helped offset 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, and it is estimated that concentrations of indoor air pollutants in homes, workplaces, and school classrooms are about two to five times higher than outdoor air. This is largely due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are compounds with a high vapor pressure and low water solubility, which are emitted by a wide variety of products, from cleaning supplies to office equipment.
French air quality startup Neoplants is trying to tackle the problem of VOCs, which traditional air purifiers cannot efficiently capture, by designing genetically modified houseplants that can absorb these pollutants.
The company’s first plant, Neo P1, is able to capture the four main components that cause air pollution in people’s homes and convert VOCs into water, sugar, amino acids, and oxygen. To achieve this, the company sequenced the houseplant Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), before inserting the biochemical pathways that break down compounds into the plant genome.
Another air quality company focused on plant-based air purification is Origen Air, which also uses genetically modified houseplants to clean the air we breathe indoors, metabolizing airborne toxins, such as VOCs. The company specifically uses the ornamental plant Pothos, leveraging liver enzymes encoded into the plant’s genome that bind pollutant molecules to air molecules, which in turn detoxify air molecules.
The Origen Air product is called The Pinnacle, which can clean up to 8,000 cubic feet of air. To create it, the company has combined traditional air purification with genetically modified plants to create a new type of air purification system.
The efficacy of the plants was proven in a laboratory at the University of Washington, which showed that they remove 100% of chloroform from the air, as well as 82% of benzene. Plus, they can also remove formaldehyde and acrolein in the air.
U-Earth, based in the Milan biotechnology center, is trying to tackle the problem of particle size, since many pollutants and pathogens in the air we breathe are less than 0.5 microns in size. This means they are generally too small to respond to standard ventilation systems, and will remain suspended in the air indefinitely.
To overcome this, U-Earth has utilized biophysical principles to be able to attract all harmful particles, no matter how big or small. These include gases, mold spores, primed particles, and VOCs.
After the contaminants are captured by the air purifier, U-Ox – composed of a selected population of safe bacteria from natural sources – in the system allows natural bio-oxidation to occur, where contaminants are digested and converted into water , carbon dioxide and, if present, trace elements base.
The air quality company also has an air quality monitoring system called the U-Monitor, which can detect contamination behavior and environmental history. This can be used to draw baseline data before an air purification system is installed to maximize system efficiency.