4 September 2020

Sheffield working to decarbonise UK military

University of Sheffield, UK, researchers are developing a new biological engineering process using bacteria and algae that could help to decarbonise the UK military.

Algae in the lab.
Algae in the lab © Sheffield University

Biomass from the process will be used to make new materials, including bio-based and biodegradable foams to grow nutritional plants in water scarce environments.

The research, led by academics in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is developing a novel bioprocess that uses a mixture of microbes to remediate waste. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) generates large volumes of waste oils, fuels, lubricants and other liquid hydrocarbon waste annually. The project will investigate how to break down complex hydrocarbon waste products using bacteria, turn them to carbon dioxide and then use algae to capture the CO2.

The next step will be to extract the fatty acids from the algal biomass and develop polymer chemistry methods for making biodegradable foams. These foams can be used as synthetic soils to grow nutritional plants in water scarce environments.