Third-generation biorefineries as the means to produce fuels and chemicals from CO2
Concerns regarding petroleum depletion and global climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions have spurred interest in renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. Third-generation (3G) biorefineries aim to utilize microbial cell factories to convert renewable energies and atmospheric CO2 into fuels and chemicals, and hence represent a route for assessing fuels and chemicals in a carbon-neutral manner. However, to establish processes competitive with the petroleum industry, it is important to clarify/evaluate/identify the most promising CO2 fixation pathways, the most appropriate CO2 utilization models and the necessary productivity levels. Here, we discuss the latest advances in 3G biorefineries. Following an overview of applications of CO2 feedstocks, mainly from flue gas and waste gasification, we review prominent opportunities and barriers in CO2 fixation and energy capture. We then summarize reported CO2-based products and industries, and describe trends and key challenges for future advancement of 3G biorefineries. A shift from sugar-based feedstocks and biomass to the use of atmospheric CO2 for the bioproduction of fuels and chemicals is desirable. This Review describes how microorganisms can be engineered for CO2 fixation and industrial valorization of this key molecule.