CO2-Based Bioplastics and Biomaterials

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

The innovation of CO2-Based Bioplastics and Biomaterials under C2V (CO2 to Value) theme significantly advances climate action by reducing carbon emissions, offering sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics. By sequestering CO2 into valuable products, it fosters circularity, mitigating plastic pollution and promoting a low-carbon economy, crucial for combating climate change.

Impact on climate action

CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials represent a revolutionary approach to creating sustainable materials, using captured carbon dioxide (CO2) as a key building block. This innovation not only helps mitigate climate change by sequestering CO2 but also offers a renewable alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics, contributing to a more circular and environmentally friendly economy.


CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials are produced through several innovative technologies:

  • Direct CO2 Conversion: This approach involves directly incorporating CO2 into the polymer chains of bioplastics through chemical reactions, often facilitated by catalysts.
  • CO2-Derived Feedstocks: CO2 can be converted into various building blocks for biomaterials, such as methanol, ethanol, and organic acids. These CO2-derived feedstocks can then be used by microorganisms to produce bioplastics like polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).
  • Gas Fermentation: Certain microorganisms, like bacteria and algae, can consume CO2 as a carbon source during fermentation, producing bioplastics as a byproduct.
  • Biocatalysis: Enzymes, the biological catalysts, can be used to efficiently drive CO2 conversion reactions for the production of bio-based monomers and polymers.

TRL : 4-7 (depending on the specific technology and product)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Novel Biocatalysts: Scientists are developing new and more efficient biocatalysts, such as engineered enzymes, to improve the efficiency and selectivity of CO2 conversion reactions for bioplastic production.
  • Metabolic Engineering of Microorganisms: Researchers are genetically modifying microorganisms to enhance their ability to consume CO2 and produce desired bioplastics with tailored properties.
  • Closed-Loop Biorefineries: Integrating CO2 capture and utilization with biorefinery processes can create a closed-loop system for sustainable production of bioplastics and other biomaterials, maximizing resource utilization and minimizing waste.
  • Biodegradable and Compostable Bioplastics: Research is focusing on developing CO2-based bioplastics that are biodegradable and compostable, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional plastics that persist in the environment.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Direct CO2 Polymerization
  • CO2-Derived Feedstock Synthesis
  • Advanced Biocatalyst Development
  • Microorganism Metabolic Engineering
  • Closed-Loop Biorefinery Systems
  • Bioplastics for Circular Economy
  • Tailored Properties in Bioplastics
  • Sustainable Bioplastic Production
  • Enhanced CO2 Utilization Efficiency
  • Carbon-Neutral Polymerization
  • Precision Bioplastic Synthesis
  • CO2-Based Polymer Innovation
  • Closed-Loop Bioplastic Supply Chains
  • Biodegradable CO2-Based Polymers
  • Compostable Bioplastic Development

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Newlight Technologies:
    • Technology Focus: Newlight Technologies specializes in converting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) into high-performance bioplastics and biomaterials through a process called AirCarbon. This technology sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and converts it into a range of biopolymer materials.
    • Uniqueness: Newlight’s technology is unique in its ability to directly capture and utilize CO2 emissions, turning a harmful greenhouse gas into a valuable resource for sustainable materials production. Their approach enables the creation of cost-effective, eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastics.
    • End-User Segments: Their products cater to a wide range of industries, including packaging, consumer goods, textiles, and automotive, where there is a growing demand for sustainable materials to reduce environmental impact.
  • Full Cycle Bioplastics:
    • Technology Focus: Full Cycle Bioplastics focuses on transforming organic waste streams, such as food waste and agricultural residues, into high-quality bioplastics and biomaterials using naturally occurring microorganisms. Their process not only reduces waste but also produces biodegradable and compostable materials.
    • Uniqueness: Full Cycle Bioplastics stands out for its closed-loop approach to material production, where waste is converted into valuable resources without relying on fossil fuels or virgin feedstocks. Their bioplastics offer a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics, addressing both environmental and waste management challenges.
    • End-User Segments: Their target markets include industries seeking biodegradable and compostable materials, such as packaging, food service, agriculture, and consumer goods.
  • Mango Materials:
    • Technology Focus: Mango Materials specializes in producing biodegradable polymers from methane, a potent greenhouse gas, using a genetically engineered bacteria-based process. Their technology allows for the conversion of methane into a range of biopolymers, including polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which are fully biodegradable.
    • Uniqueness: Mango Materials’ technology offers a sustainable solution for methane mitigation by converting this harmful greenhouse gas into biodegradable materials. Their approach has the potential to address both environmental concerns and the growing demand for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastics.
    • End-User Segments: Their products target industries looking for biodegradable materials, such as packaging, textiles, cosmetics, and medical devices, where there is a need to reduce plastic pollution and dependence on fossil-based materials.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Stanford researchers are pioneering the development of CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials by leveraging advanced catalysts and reaction engineering techniques. They are exploring novel catalytic processes to convert CO2 into high-value building blocks for biopolymer synthesis.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s approach involves the integration of CO2 capture and utilization technologies with biopolymer production processes. They are developing scalable and sustainable methods to transform CO2 emissions into functional materials with tailored properties, such as biodegradability and recyclability.
    • End-use Applications: The CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials developed at Stanford have diverse applications, including packaging, textiles, and biomedical devices. By replacing traditional petroleum-based plastics with CO2-derived alternatives, companies can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.
  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Technology Enhancements: TUM researchers are advancing CO2 to value technology by optimizing biocatalytic processes for the production of bioplastics and biomaterials from CO2 feedstocks. They are engineering microorganisms and enzymes to efficiently convert CO2 into precursors for biopolymer synthesis.
    • Uniqueness of Research: TUM’s research focuses on the use of renewable resources and waste streams as feedstocks for CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials. They are exploring innovative bioprocesses that utilize CO2 as a carbon source in combination with sustainable feedstocks, such as lignocellulosic biomass and agricultural residues.
    • End-use Applications: The CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials developed at TUM have applications in various industries, including packaging, automotive, and consumer goods. By utilizing CO2 as a renewable carbon source, companies can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and minimize the environmental impact of plastic production.
  • Imperial College London:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Imperial College London are pushing the boundaries of CO2 to value technology through the development of novel catalysts and reaction systems for CO2 conversion. They are exploring electrochemical and photochemical methods to transform CO2 into functional monomers for biopolymer synthesis.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Imperial College’s research integrates principles of green chemistry and sustainable engineering into the design of CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials. They are investigating new pathways for CO2 utilization that minimize energy consumption and waste generation, leading to more environmentally friendly production processes.
    • End-use Applications: The CO2-based bioplastics and biomaterials developed at Imperial College have potential applications in sectors such as agriculture, construction, and electronics. By harnessing CO2 as a feedstock for material synthesis, companies can create value-added products while mitigating climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Several companies are moving towards commercialization of CO2-based bioplastics:

  • Newlight Technologies: Their AirCarbon bioplastic is already being used in a variety of products, including packaging for brands like Dell and Sprint.
  • Full Cycle Bioplastics: Is actively seeking partnerships with manufacturers to scale up the production and adoption of their PHA bioplastics.