The hydrogen gas bio-based economy and the production of renewable building block chemicals, food and energy

Jo De Vrieze, Kristof Verbeeck, Ilje Pikaar, Jos Boere, Ad Van Wijk, Korneel Rabaey, Willy Verstraete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


The carrying capacity of the planet is being exceeded, and there is an urgent need to bring forward revolutionary approaches, particularly in terms of energy supply, carbon emissions and nitrogen inputs into the biosphere. Hydrogen gas, generated by means of renewable energy through water electrolysis, can be a platform molecule to drive the future bioeconomy and electrification in the 21st century. The potential to use hydrogen gas in microbial metabolic processes is highly versatile, and this opens a broad range of opportunities for novel biotechnological developments and applications. A first approach concerns the central role of hydrogen gas in the production of bio-based building block chemicals using the methane route, thus, bypassing the inherent low economic value of methane towards higher-value products. Second, hydrogen gas can serve as a key carbon-neutral source to produce third-generation proteins, i.e. microbial protein for food applications, whilst simultaneously enabling carbon capture and nutrient recovery, directly at their point of emission. Combining both approaches to deal with the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources maximises the ability for efficient use of renewable resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-18
Number of pages7
JournalNew Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Bioeconomy
  • Biomethanation
  • Hydrogen gas
  • Microbial protein
  • Resource recovery

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