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Making chemicals by artificial photosynthesis

By Gerald Ondrey |

Evonik[/caption] Last month, Evonik Industries AG (Essen, Germany; www.evonik.com) and Siemens AG (Munich, both Germany; www.siemens.com) launched a second phase of their joint research project, Rheticus II, which aims to develop a test plant that will use CO2 and water, as well as electricity from renewable sources and bacteria, to produce specialty chemicals. In the Rheticus I project, Siemens and Evonik worked for two years to develop the technically feasible basis for artificial photosynthesis using a bioreactor and electrolyzers (see “Solar Chemistry Heats Up,” Chem. Eng., March 2018, pp. 12–16; www.chemengonline.com/solar-chemistry-heats). Now, the two companies are combining these two, previously separate, plants in a test facility at Evonik’s site in Marl, Germany. Rheticus II will run until 2021 and will receive funding of around €3.5 million from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF; Bonn; www.bmbf.de). The test facility is scheduled to start operating in early 2020. It comprises electrolyzers and a bioreactor. In a first step, CO2 and water are electrolyzed into synthesis gas (syngas; CO and H2). Microorganisms then metabolize the syngas into chemicals. The synthesis module came on stream…
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