Bacteria that Turn CO2 into Energy

We’ve written earlier about man–made bacteria that eat waste & shit petrol. How about a genetically modified bacteria that can eat CO2 and excrete methane that could power our cars and homes? Abundant carbon dioxide, which is considered a pollutant, could be a nearly unlimited source of fuel. Will you one day be driving your car to fight global warming?

At first you think it sounds too good be true and quickly categorize the idea in the hoax section along with the cheap solar panels made from human hairs. But once you hear Craig Venter – yes, that researcher that sequenced the human genome – is involved, you know you have to take things more seriously.

Dr. Venter with his new firm, Synthetic Genomics, has turned his attentions to creating synthetic biological organisms for environmental change. What is particularly interesting about the company’s approach is the digitizing of existing organisms, which are then remodeled to new ones that do things that serve us well, such as eating pollution and excreting fuel. It’s high science today, but could be a genetic Photoshop within our lifetime.

A leading candidate to be the desired ‘CO2 eating, energy excreting bacteria’ that changes the game of climate change is Methanococcus jannaschii – depicted at the top of this post –, an ancient, single-cell organism that is found in the seafloor in the vicinity of hydrothermal vents. The organism produces methane by combining carbon dioxide with hydrogen rising through the vents. Incorporated into the air pollution control systems of power plants, the organism could turn CO2 into methane.

Although it will be difficult to apply the technique on a large scale anytime soon, president Obama already decided to honor Craig Venter with the National Medal of Science for his life time achievements.

stoveburner_flame_530.jpgSources: Lab News, Popular Mechanics. Related: Crash course on synthetic genomics, Bacteria that eat waste & shit petrol, Driving on Algue, Arnolds hybrid hummer, Green Blues.

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