Engineering an ultrastable carbonic anhydrase for use in CO2 sequestration

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About This Project

Reducing CO2 levels is a significant technological focus in the fight against climate change today. Direct air capture and point-source capture are well-accepted methods of reducing CO2 concentrations but with cost concerns due to the inefficiency of CO2 absorption during CO2 capture. A potential solution to this problem is the CO2 hydrating enzymes, carbonic anhydrases (CAs), but the gap lies in the engineering of an ultra-stable CA that can endure the harsh conditions of CO2 capture.

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What is the context of this research?

The sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere requires gigatone-scaled projects in order to be efficient and cost-effective. System efficiency is an important attribute of mitigation strategies which implement direct air capture (DAC) and point-source capture (PSC). However, in these systems, temperature changes necessitates high energy requirements, which include heating the solvent to release CO2 and cooling it for capture. CO2 capture materials with high absorption rate, which reduce cost by reducing the gas contactor size, typically have high CO2 regeneration energy, and vice versa. An enzymatic catalyst that is highly selective to CO2, highly active and durable, would therefore be necessary to help to increase absorption rate of the CO2, consequently reducing costs.

What is the significance of this project?

Carbonic anhydrases (CAs) are enzymes that convert CO2 to bicarbonate ions at an accelerated rate. The use of a CAs in DAC and PSC would enable fast CO2 absorption in capture solvents with low CO2 regeneration energy, resolving the trade off discussed above. CAs could enable efficient DAC and PSC with small temperature or pH swings if it can be stabilized in DAC or PSC processes, which may include high pH, temperature, or ionic strength. These enzymes can reduce PSC cost >30% vs standard methods. Protein engineering (PE) tools and systematic screens of natural variants, which are revolutionizing PE could produce next-generation ultrastable CAs, further enhancing PSC as well as DAC, which demands higher stability due to the enzyme quantities needed for the larger solvent volumes used.

What are the goals of the project?

Often, engineering proteins leads to a trade-off in its properties, for example, higher thermostability at the expense of high catalytic efficiency or vice-versa. Most engineering attempts have been mainly towards thermostability, however, for applications such as CO2 capture technologies involving solvents such as K2CO3 or KOH, catalytic efficiency of CAs in such environments is also necessary. The concentration of K2CO3 in CO2 capture solutions can vary but is often in the range of 20% to 40% by weight for post-combustion capture. The main goal is to engineer an ultrastable CA that not only is thermostable but also resists inactivation in the presence of the different solvents used in DAC and PSC processes. We also aim to develop a systematic workflow of engineering carbonic anhydrases.


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Project Timeline


Dec 20, 2024

Project completion

Meet the Team

Colleen Varaidzo Manyumwa
Colleen Varaidzo Manyumwa


Novo Nordisk Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark
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Colleen Varaidzo Manyumwa

Colleen Varaidzo Manyumwa, a Zimbabwean-born scientist, is a dedicated researcher with a deep-rooted passion for merging the worlds of computational science and molecular biology. Armed with a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Biochemistry and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Bioinformatics, she has embarked on a remarkable journey of exploration and discovery.

Her academic pursuits have consistently reflected her profound interest in the wellness of the environment. Throughout her educational journey, she has been gaining experience in the field of structural biology, specializing in enzymes and their intricate modifications. Her research journey has encompassed a diverse array of projects, ranging from her early work on enzymatic silver recovery during her MSc studies to the computational analyses of carbonic anhydrases, a topic of her doctoral research. In her current role as a postdoctoral researcher, Colleen continues to break new ground by seamlessly bridging the realms of computational science and molecular biology/biochemistry. One of Colleen's current focal points revolves around a pioneering CO2 capture project. Her commitment to environmental conservation and her desire to contribute to the global fight against climate change have found a perfect outlet in this endeavor. As she applies her scientific expertise to address one of the most pressing challenges of our time, Colleen envisions a future where she will lead a CO2 capture company. Her vision extends beyond the laboratory, aiming to make a tangible impact on reducing atmospheric CO2 levels and healing our planet.

Beyond her scientific pursuits, Colleen's multi-talented nature shines through in her various creative interests. She finds inspiration and creative expression in playing musical instruments, indulging in sketching and art, and mastering the intricate art of crocheting.

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