July 24, 2017, by Rob Ounsworth

Introducing Green Chemicals: discovering carbon-neutral solutions for a sustainable future

In the latest of a series introducing the University’s Beacons of Excellence, Professor Alex Conradie, Director of Green Chemicals, explains how our world-leading expertise will drive a revolution in biotechnology and sustainable manufacturing.

The Atari 2600 occupies a nostalgic place in my heart when I recollect my formative years. When I was a kid in the late 1970s, I probably spent far too many hours playing video games on what was the first video game platform.

It was irresistible, with fantastic games like Yar’s Revenge and Missile Command, but what enthralled Warner Communication when they acquired Atari, wasn’t the phenomenal success of their first games; but the microprocessor chipset that lead to the Atari 2600.

Warner understood the economics of the coin-operated arcade game industry. The fact that you could constantly change the games on the Atari platform; that was a very exciting idea.

The Atari 2600 signalled the dawn of the digital revolution, when the invention of the microprocessor unleashed unprecedented opportunities for creativity and productivity.

It turned the world upside down.

This status quo in the chemical industries has parallels with the arcade game industry of the 1970s. Therefore, Nottingham is taking a leading role in a new technological revolution.

Similar to the invention of the microprocessor, advances in biotechnology have created transformational opportunities in providing cost-effective and more sustainable processes for the chemical industries.

In the same way you could insert a cartridge for a different game into the Atari platform, the Green Chemicals Beacon has cell factory platforms that can be reprogrammed through plasmid cassettes to produce new products.

By changing the cell factory in a multi-product facility, different products can be produced from the same raw materials.

Genetic engineering is but one element of reprogramming the future of chemical production.

The Green Chemicals Beacon will integrate the University of Nottingham’s world-leading expertise in genetic engineering, process engineering and sustainable chemistry; all the way from conceptualisation through to technology demonstration. As such, the Green Chemicals Beacon will propel the product and process development cycles forward. Faster, smarter and with more imagination; creating a biotechnology platform that will unleash economic potential for our collaborators.

Alongside the economic benefit to communities around the world from our innovations, these opportunities effectively address the UN Sustainable Development Goals of climate action and sustainable industrialisation.

My favourite Atari game was a game called Adventure. The object of the game was simple; find and return the magical chalice to the golden castle without being eaten by three menacing dragons. Today, the Green Chemicals Beacon has the key to the golden castle and we invite you to open the gates to more sustainable prosperity with us.

It is time to turn the world upside down once more.

Professor Alex Conradie is Director of Green Chemicals

Discover more about the Green Chemicals Beacon of Excellence

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