Photo by Photanol
Photo by University of Amsterdam

Klaas Hellingwerf

Co-Founder & CSO



Co-Founder & CSO






74 years






What makes Klaas Hellingwerf a Global Shaker?

Professor Klaas Hellingwerf is a highly respected academic microbiologist at the University of Amsterdam and one of the co-founders of Photanol where he serves as CSO.

Set up in 2008 by Hellingwerf and colleague Joost Teixeira de Mattos, Amsterdam-based startup Photanol offers a viable, clean and efficient alternative to current fossil fuels and biofuels by harnessing the photosynthetic power of cyanobacteria.

They harness the natural photosynthetic properties of cyanobacteria to capture sunlight and directly convert CO2 into valuable compounds, such as ethanol, butanol and propanediol.

They do this by genetically altering the metabolism of cyanobacteria, thus allowing them to circumvent the traditional photosynthetic route in which sunlight is used to convert COinto biomass. By introducing properties of fermentative bacteria, they create a shortcut in which cyanobacteria use solar power to immediately convert COinto biofuels. The only by-product of this whole process is oxygen.

In 2018, Photanol announced that they had closed a substantial new financing round (€8M) to demonstrate its industrial capabilities to produce chemicals from CO2 and sunlight.  This will be used to open the startups first demo plant in 2020.

They say that the demo plant is an essential step towards scaling up production of organic acids which can be used in biodegradable plastics, personal care products and as intermediates for the chemical industry.

Photanol was recently recognised as one of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers.

By joining this community, Technology Pioneers begin a two-year journey where they are part of the World Economic Forum’s initiatives, activities and events, bringing cutting-edge insights and fresh thinking to critical global discussions.

Tags: biochemistry, bioengineering, plastic solutions

Last updated: July 31, 2019