Sunlight creates biodegradable plastic via artificial photosynthesis

 Recent years have seen an increase in environmental issues caused by global warming, largely due to the presence of greenhouse gases like CO2. Artificial photosynthesis mimics natural process by converting CO2 into organic compounds, which can be used as raw materials for durable forms like plastic. It can be a solution for CO2 reduction.

A research team led by Professor Yutaka Amao and graduate student Mika Takeuchi from Osaka Metropolitan University have made a breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis. They have successfully synthesized fumaric acid from CO2 using sunlight, for the first time. Fumaric acid is a raw material for plastics. The results have been published in the journal Sustainable Energy & Fuels.

Fumaric acid is traditionally synthesized from petroleum, as a raw material for biodegradable plastics like polybutylene succinate. But a research team from Osaka Metropolitan University have discovered that it can be synthesized from CO2 and biomass-derived compounds using renewable solar energy. This breakthrough shows the potential of using sustainable methods to produce raw materials for biodegradable plastics, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

“This research is a significant step toward the practical application of artificial photosynthesis by using visible light as the power source which is renewable energy,” said Professor Amao. The team aims to further develop this technology by collecting gaseous CO2 and using it to synthesize fumaric acid directly through artificial photosynthesis, which could be a promising solution to reducing CO2 and produce sustainable raw materials.