Engineering a More Efficient System for Harnessing Carbon Dioxide

The Science

To reverse-engineer a biosynthetic pathway for more effective carbon fixation.

The Impact

  • In the end, through sequencing and synthesis, 17 different enzymes from 9 different organisms across the three kingdoms of life were incorporated.
  • These parts were combined to achieve a proof of principle CO2 fixation pathway performance that exceeds twat can be found in nature.
  • Potential: Synthetic CO2-fixation cycles can be introduced into organisms to bolster natural photosynthesis or, in combination with photovoltaics, lead the way to artificial photosynthesis.


  • Conceived several theoretical CO2 fixation routes that (i) start with a carboxylase reaction, (ii) regenerate the carboxylation substrate to allow for continuous cycling, and (iii) feature a dedicated output reaction to channel the fixed carbon into a product.


Schwander, T. et. al. “A synthetic pathway for the fixation of carbon dioxide in vitro.” Science 354(6314), 900–904 (2016). [DOI:10.1126/science.aah5237]