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Program Overview

view of sky with trees in foreground

The Biocatalyst Interactions with Gases (BIG) Collaboration between North Carolina State University (NC State) and the Technical University of Denmark (Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, DTU) aims to uncover new biology-based methods for CO2 management and sustainable fertilizer production through the fundamental investigation of enzyme catalyzed gas reactions involving carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2 ). 

The BIG Collaboration aligns with NNF’s recently launched 2030 strategy which focuses on solving global challenges within health and sustainability while supporting a strong life science ecosystem. As part of its sustainability goals, NNF aims to address the pressing question of how to feed a growing global population while developing new technologies to mitigate climate change. 

​​“The Novo Nordisk Foundation is very pleased to initiate and support this highly ambitious and interdisciplinary project which will grow our understanding of fundamental biological questions,” said NNF Scientific Director Torben V. Borchert. “The project has strong potential to develop new sustainable processes for the production of essential chemicals, resulting in significant societal benefit.” 

NC State Associate Professor Sonja Salmon, a recognized expert on carbon capture science and technology, leads the BIG Collaboration team of 11 co-PIs with research expertise in agricultural engineering, biochemistry, chemical and biomolecular engineering, environmental engineering, enzymology, materials sciences, nuclear engineering, physics, plant and microbial biology, and polymer and textile sciences. 

The project team will develop insights on complementary enzyme-based approaches for transforming abundant CO2 and N2 gas molecules present in Earth’s atmosphere into small water-soluble compounds – bicarbonate, formate and ammonium – to improve gas molecule conversion efficiency that will help advance greenhouse gas reduction technologies while creating useful precursors for cement, fuels, chemicals and fertilizer.

Studying these life-essential biocatalyzed gas reactions will lead to new innovations that contribute to global sustainability solutions. 

The five-year BIG Collaboration will prepare students for careers where they can make a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions and support the bio economy. Carbon management is a rapidly growing field, creating high demand for skilled scientists with experience advancing these technologies. See the Opportunities tab for open positions.

Peter Westh

Professor, Group Leader for Interfacial Enzymology