Electrification of Biotechnology: Quo Vadis?
Electrobiotechnology has come a long way and has gained much interest among researchers all over the world. In the previous chapters of this book, an abundance of successful developments of lab-scale electrobiosynthesis and their underlying fundamentals are described. Thereby the individual needs and lines of research are highlighted. In this final chapter we will try to shed light on the overall performance of electrobiosynthetic processes with regard to their technological maturity, as well as the potential ecological and economic incentives for their industrial implementation.
The evaluation of technical maturity, in particular, clearly demonstrates that electrobiosynthesis is still in its infancy. Bridging the “valley of death” between promising lab-scale results and first industrial applications as a market opener can only be achieved by the joint efforts of researchers from different disciplines in academia and industry, as well as by public funding and venture capital.
Unfortunately, among other factors, the low degree of technical maturity hampers ecological evaluation, which so far has been limited to a small number of complete life cycle assessments. Therefore, we suggest using simplified evaluation tools (e.g., the environmental E-factor) to at least acquire clues about different parameters that influence the ecological impact. Ultimately, money makes the world go round and, hence, economic aspects will determine whether or not electrobiotechnological processes are implemented in industry. The existing examples show that different production routes based on electrobiosynthesis can become economically feasible.
KeywordsElectrobiotechnology Electroenzymatic synthesis Green chemistry Life cycle assessment Microbial electrosynthesis Technology readiness level/technology maturity
Concerning this chapter, both authors thank Dr. Karsten Schürrle (DECHEMA e.V.), Dr. Sofia Milker (DFI), and Dr. Luis F. M. Rosa (UFZ) for their discussions. In regard to the entire book: First of all we thank all the authors and referees. Any merit should be assigned to the authors of the individual chapters and all flaws should be addressed to both of us. We thank Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) for the funding of the workshop series (AZ: 31382/01) that certainly partially inspired this book and fostered the interaction of the authors. Additionally, we gratefully acknowledge DECHEMA’s support of the initiative to establish the national working party “Electrobiotechnology”, which played an important role in the emergence of this book. Finally, we hope that the DECHEMA working party can establish itself as the heart of electrobiotechnology in Germany, as the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology (ISMET) has done worldwide.
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