R&D Project of Carbon Utilization

Creation of useful materials from carbon and oxygen in the atmosphere

Global warming is caused by the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Thus, recovering and using this CO2 will be beneficial in terms of both the environment and resources. Plants and microorganisms take in CO2 by photosynthesis to produce various primary metabolites such as sugars and lipids, as well as secondary metabolites.

We are working to develop enhanced photosynthesis by identifying regulatory factors for the production of various biomaterials. In addition, we are developing not only plants that can effectively fix CO2 for the production of useful materials, but also microorganisms and catalysts with added chemical diversity. Our goal is to develop technology to allow us to freely produce useful resources from CO2. We are also developing novel catalysts that make it possible to use atmospheric oxygen to engage in oxidation without putting a load on the environment.

Biology and chemistry are like two sides of the same coin. We can learn from one another while moving toward a sustainable society.

Kazuki Saito

Project Leader

Kazuki Saito

Ph.D.

How can we create useful substances from carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere? That is the most important initiative of the R&D Project of Carbon Utilization.

Plants and microorganisms use photosynthesis to produce a range of substances – sugars such as starch and cellulose, amino acids, lipids, and secondary metabolites such as alkaloids, terpenoids and flavonoids. In turn, we use these substances as food, industrial raw materials, energy resources, pharmaceuticals and health supplements. Chemistry can efficiently produce various substances with the aid of catalysts. The question we always confront is whether we can use chemistry to replicate what nature does. Conversely, can organisms replicate what chemistry does? Biology and chemistry are related in this way, and we endeavor to develop technologies to recycle carbon while striving to learn from one another.

Fusing these very different fields is not an easy task. However, trouble often brings opportunities. It is obvious to everyone that we must shift from our oil-based society to one that utilizes sustainable resources, and the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science has a role to play. At the Center, we work with a sense of mission.