This Methane-Eating Bacterium Can Convert Greenhouse Gases To Fuel


North-western University researchers established a project to investigate the systems that allow methanotrophic bacteria to utilize 30 million metric tonnes of methane every year, as well as their inherent capacity to transform the enhanced greenhouse gas into useable fuel. Their objective is to leverage this knowledge to create mortal biological catalysts that transform greenhouse gasses into methanol. Methane is a significant by-product of coal mining and energy production and is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Coal mines currently generate 52.3 million metric tonnes of methane annually, whereas oil resources generate 39 million tonnes. Each year, mining activities for all minerals emit an estimated 4.32 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Scientists investigating the enigmatic world of methane-eating microbes may have moved us one step closer to turning damaging greenhouse gas into fuel. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but particular bacteria can convert it into methanol, which may be used to power cars or create energy. Every year, the bacteria eat 30 million metric tonnes of methane.

The researchers discussed in a study published in the journal Science that they are adopting a first move toward fixing this problem by concentrating on the enzyme particulates methane monooxygenase (pMMO), which the microbes utilize to catalyze the process. The molecule, though, is an extremely demanding enzyme to analyze since it is lodged in the bacteria’s cellular membranes. When studying these methanotrophic microorganisms, researchers usually utilize a severe technique in which the proteins are pulled out of the cellular membrane using a chemical mixture. While this approach efficiently separates the enzyme, it also destroys all enzymatic activity and restricts the amount of data researchers may collect.

Methane-eating bacteria convert greenhouse ga | EurekAlert!

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) was applied in this research, which is a technology well-suited to protein complexes since the lipid cell wall microenvironment is preserved across the study. For the first time, the team has been able to see the arrangement of atoms of the enzyme complex in high resolution. “We could examine the composition in molecular depth due to the obvious renaissance’ in cryo-EM,” Rosenzweig remarked. “What we discovered dramatically altered our perspective on the protein surface of this enzyme.”

Methane-eating bacteria help convert greenhouse gas to fuel | E&T Magazine

Methanotrophic bacteria, often called “methanotrophs,” not only remove dangerous greenhouse gas from the environment by transforming methane to methanol but also provide a renewable and fully prepared fuel for generators and cars.


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