Think of engineered microbes as a kind of living software, and you have an idea where the company LanzaTech is going with its carbon capture and recycling technology. The company specializes in a system that recovers emissions and converts them into ethanol and other building blocks for liquid fuels and synthetic materials including plastic and rubber. That’s a significant improvement over the conventional formulation of carbon capture, which gets to the “capture” phase and stops there.

Last month Triple Pundit spoke to LanzaTech’s head of communications and government relations Freya Burton for a look at the future of carbon recycling, and it looks like the company’s approach is well-timed to take advantage of emerging trends in recycling and waste recovery.

The inspiration for LanzaTech’s system comes from naturally-occurring acetogens, an ancient family of gas-fermenting organisms found near undersea hydrothermal vents. The vents provide acetogens with all the nutrients they need for their entire lifecycle, in the form of gases.

The vent gases have much in common with emissions from steel manufacturing and other industrial and landfill sources, namely carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide as well as hydrogen, hydrogen sulphide and methane.

It took some tweaking, to come up with a strain of “robust bugs” that can survive — and thrive — in industrial waste gases, but the company did succeed in engineering its own version of the microbial family to produce products like jet fuel and diesel.

Find out more about "robust bugs" and how they can help by Tina Casey at TriplePundit