Here are some key companies that are transforming the automotive industry via synthetic biology and the engineering of biological organisms:
Envision if we could take carbon emissions and change them to fuels and chemicals, purifying the air and giving carbon a second chance – and a second value. That is the purpose of LanzaTech’s technology. The technology takes pollution and converts it, in hopes to eradicate single-use carbon. How is that achievable? Microbes! LanzaTech co-founder and CSO Dr. Sean Simpson recognized a bacterium, isolated from the gut of a rabbit, which was capable of living on gas emissions and generating ethanol. Through stimulated natural selection, LanzaTech separated the microbes producing the essential level of ethanol. Now, instead of transmitting harmful gas emissions out into the open air, it can be sent into a fermentation vessel where these microbes feed off the gas and turn it into ethanol.
Mycelium is the thread-like vegetative portion of a fungus-like the stem of a mushroom. Ecovative has a universally patented process to grow mycelium into designed arrangements to make a sustainable product that is 100 percent home compostable. Ecovative is utilizing mycelium to prepare food, clothes, packaging materials, and foam. Envision sitting on a fuzzy, foam-like leather car seat – all composed of engineered fungi. Ecovative’s MycoFlex platform produces textiles that are breathable, heat-resistant, insulating, sturdy, resilient, and 100 percent natural.
Visualize building a home of LEGOs. There are numerous probabilities as to how the house will look. What technique should it be? What color? Dimensions and measurements? But imagine now that you could alternatively design the LEGO brick itself. Checkerspot is facilitating the design of new materials – at the molecular level. Hundreds of fatty acids survive in nature, but only 14 of them are utilized for industrial purposes. The disregarded fatty acids “don’t match the ‘industrial complex’ owing to commodity system and pricing.” But Checkerspot is changing this, using chemistry and engineered microalgae to produce new materials with new physical properties – commencing with oils.
A spider web constructed of pencil-thick spider silk fibers can grab a fully packed Jumbo Jet Boeing 747 with a mass of 380 tons. With about the same strength as carbon fiber but with 40 times the robustness, spider silk is a material with endless possibilities. Imagine the applications it could have in the automotive business – perhaps a safer, stronger chassis without negotiating on weight? You may have heard about Spiber and the incorporation of their Moon Parka, in collaboration with The North Face Japan. But Spiber has also been discovering the automotive industry. Beginning this year, Spiber finished up a Japanese national project entitled ImPACT in collaboration with partner organizations. Together with Bridgestone and by employing their Brewed Protein materials, Spiber has generated a polyurethane composite foam for car beds.
Malonic acid is a compound with applications in biodegradable polymers, automobile covers, surgical adhesives, and food & drug additives — to mention a few. The global market for malonic acid is estimated at USD 42 million and is presumed to grow. But the generation of malonic acid comes at a substantial environmental cost: It demands toxic chemistries based on petroleum sodium cyanide, a chemical that produces significant health and environmental uncertainties. Bay Area-based Lygos has developed a sustainable alternative production process: microbes! With his expertise in engineering microbes to transform sugar into fuel, co-founder and CEO Eric Steen managed to formulate a microbial strain that was acid-tolerant with the ability to present malonic acid.