LanzaTech has developed and scaled a biotechnology that converts gases including carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen (H2), and carbon monoxide (CO) into fuels such as ethanol, chemical-building blocks and food. This technology is called gas fermentation and leverages the ability of a unique group of microorganisms to use gases as their sole source of carbon and energy for life, and product synthesis.
Mars has an abundance of CO2 in its atmosphere, and of water as a source of H2. Solar powered water electrolysis will produce H2 while making the oxygen needed for life support. This hydrogen can be harnessed for continuous food and fuel production using gas fermentation.
LanzaTech has successfully scaled gas fermentation from the laboratory bench through pilot plants to fully integrated pre-commercial demonstration plants. The company has developed industrially proven gas fermenting microbes, proprietary bioreactor configurations for efficient gas to liquid mass transfer, low cost process chemistries, and operating protocols allowing fully continuous production for months at a time. The company is currently constructing commercial production facilities in Europe, Taiwan and China. In the first instance these plants will be dedicated to producing fuel ethanol using waste gas streams from steel making.
With gas fermentation, Mars has the local resources to sustain life and enable continued exploration.
Fuel and Chemicals:
LanzaTech have demonstrated that ethanol and other alcohols can be efficiently produced by gas fermentation at high rates and yields. These alcohols could be used to fuel local vehicles or spacecraft, or to store energy for power generation via fuel cells. comprehensive synthetic biology capability and fully predictive genome model has been developed allowing the synthesis of an array of novel chemicals from gas feedstocks.
The microbial catalysts used in gas fermentation continuously grow and divide using the gas feed as a source of carbon and energy. The microbes are a valuable source of protein and B-vitamins to nourish inhabitants of Mars.
The biocatalysts used in gas fermentation can be freeze dried and stored as a powder for years without loss of activity; additional nutrients salts are are dry chemicals, which are easily transported and stored. The physical plant comprises gas delivery, a bioreactor, and product recovery. Highly integrated, mission-specific designs for this infrastructure must be developed.
Automated continuous production:
Gas fermentation is a continuous process allowing uninterrupted production of fuel and food from local resources. Furthermore the operation may be fully automated removing the need for labor intensive operations. Water recycling is already incorporated and can be integrated with other resource recovery processes.