Scientists at the University of Dundee have discovered that E. coli bacteria could hold the key to an efficient method of capturing and storing or recycling carbon dioxide.
Cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to slow down and even reverse global warming has been posited as humankind’s greatest challenge. It is a goal that is subject to considerable political and societal hurdles, but it also remains a technological challenge.
New ways of capturing and storing CO2 will be needed. Now, normally harmless gut bacteria have been shown to have the ability to play a crucial role.
Professor Frank Sargent and colleagues at the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences, working with local industry partners Sasol UK and Ingenza Ltd, have developed a process that enables the E. coli bacterium to act as a very efficient carbon capture device.
Professor Sargent said, “Reducing carbon dioxide emissions will require a basket of different solutions and nature offers some exciting options. Microscopic, single-celled bacteria are used to living in extreme environments and often perform chemical reactions that plants and animals cannot do.
“For example, the E. coli bacterium can grow in the complete absence of oxygen. When it does this it makes a special metal-containing enzyme, called ‘FHL’, which can interconvert gaseous carbon dioxide with liquid formic acid. This could provide an opportunity to capture carbon dioxide into a manageable product that is easily stored, controlled or even used to make other things. The trouble is, the normal conversion process is slow and sometime unreliable.
“What we have done is develop a process that enables the E. coli bacterium to operate as a very efficient biological carbon capture device. When the bacteria containing the FHL enzyme are placed under pressurised carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas mixtures – up to 10 atmospheres of pressure – then 100 per cent conversion of the carbon dioxide to formic acid is observed. The reaction happens quickly, over a few hours, and at ambient temperatures.
“This could be an important breakthrough in biotechnology. It should be possible to optimise the system still further and finally develop a `microbial cell factory’ that could be used to mop up carbon dioxide from many different types of industry.
“Not all bacteria are bad. Some might even save the planet.”
Not only capturing carbon dioxide but storing or recycling it is a major issue. There are millions of tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere every year. For the UK alone, the net emission of C02 in 2015 was 404 million tonnes. There is a significant question of where can we put it all even if we capture it, with current suggestions including pumping it underground in to empty oil and gas fields.
“The E. coli solution we have found isn’t only attractive as a carbon capture technology, it converts it into a liquid that is stable and comparatively easily stored,” said Professor Sargent.
“Formic acid also has industrial uses, from a preservative and antibacterial agent in livestock feed, a coagulant in the production of rubber, and, in salt form, a de-icer for airport runways. It could also be potentially recycled into biological processes that produce CO2, forming a virtuous loop.”
The Latest on: Carbon capture and carbon recycling
Carbon Dioxide Capture Credit Enhanced
on March 16, 2018 at 5:22 pm
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 extended and enhanced a tax credit that incentivized carbon dioxide capture, storage, and utilization. The enhanced credit, known as the “45Q tax credit,” offers a tax credit of up to $50 per ton for carbon oxide (not ... […]
Recycled CO2 shoes made with no carbon footprint
on March 12, 2018 at 10:44 am
Recycled CO2 shoes made with no carbon footprint A New York product development firm creates a "footprintless" shoe from recycled CO2 to showcase progressive, new ways to capture gaseous waste from power plants. Elly Park reports. Check out this story on ... […]
Smart cities and the future of carbon capture
on March 9, 2018 at 6:53 am
... Materials and Bill Gates-backed Carbon Engineering are also working on technologies to make recycling carbon dioxide a profitable industry. Carbon capture: Where are we now? Swiss company Climeworks claims it is the first company in the world to ... […]
Occidental CEO: Carbon capture is ‘just the right thing to do’
on March 8, 2018 at 6:58 am
The top executive of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) said that while it’s going to take some effort to make carbon capture an economical technology ... pipeline and 12 CO2 separation and recycling facilities, CEO Vicki Hollub ... […]
Y Combinator Is Looking for Carbon Removal Startups
on March 6, 2018 at 3:00 pm
recycling and sequestering carbon. Such startups could remove carbon by a variety of means, such as creating direct air capture technologies, developing biochar solutions or reimagining reforestation projects. On Tuesday morning, Y Combinator updated its ... […]
Carbon Capture Plant In Switzerland Opens To Sell CO2 For Reuse
on June 13, 2017 at 7:59 am
The first commercial facility that can extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then sell it for reuse opened earlier this month in Switzerland. Some scientists see it as an innovative first step to combating the impacts of climate change. […]
Carbon Recycling: Mining the Air for Fuel
on August 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm
Peter Eisenberger, a physicist who founded the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is cofounder of Global Thermostat, a company that is working on technology to capture carbon dioxide from air with the aim of recycling, not storage, in mind. […]
6 Ideas for Recycling Carbon
on July 7, 2010 at 4:01 am
But how about carbon capture and conversion? Envisioned as a kind of recycling at massive scale, that’s the technology that has just scored $4.4 million from the Department of Energy. If the six research projects awarded funding this week pan out ... […]
Carbon Recycling: An Alternative To Carbon Capture And Storage
on June 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm
Twenty seven billion tons of CO2 is already a hefty number, but energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to reach 43 billion metric tons per year by 2030, an increase of 60%. A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that ... […]
via Google News and Bing News