Can bacteria be recruited to turn a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into useful substances?
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge facing humanity in this era. The path towards reducing global warming and the transition to a sustainable life is long and difficult, and it is now clear that improving energy efficiency and reliance on renewable energy sources Not enough on its ownTo achieve the goals, which would limit the phenomenon of global warming. In order to achieve these goals, we must effectively dispose of billions of tons of Carbon Dioxide straight from the atmosphere. But, what can we do with this massive amount of carbon dioxide?
offered thestudy Published in the scientific journal Nature Synthesis, a proposal to use bacteria to convert carbon dioxide into environmentally friendly fuel and other useful materials.
carbon dioxide removal plants
Huge factories around the world are capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air, and more are being built. The largest of these plants, located in Iceland, About 4,000 tons of CO2 are taken directly from the air per year. cooperate The Swiss Startup Responsible for gas capture technology, with Icelandic company Responsible for fixing carbon dioxide, which is captured in rocks containing carbonate minerals. And that by means of green energy taken from sources of geothermal energy, that is, energy that is produced by heat from the earth.
The process of stabilizing carbon dioxide in minerals in rocks meets the main desired goal, which is to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, rocks are abundantly available to us. Can’t we use carbon dioxide as a raw material to produce useful products? We must consider billions of tons of this gas, if captured from the atmosphere in the coming decades, as a resource for its uses.
Efforts are being made all over the world to develop a modern technology for converting carbon dioxide into fueland useful chemicals such as ethanol, acetylene or plastics, to reduce the use of crude oil products in its production. Most of the attention today is directed towards the development of chemical processes that allow the efficient conversion of gas into useful substances, but it is the bacteria in particular that may realize this dream in the future.
Cyanobacteria use solar energy to fix carbon dioxide. | Photo: MAREK MIS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Biochemical production line inside a test tube containing bacteria
Some types of bacteria, such as a group of Cyanobacteria – The most famous in this regard – the energy of the sun to stabilize carbon dioxide, and convert it into sugars through a process Photosynthesis. How then can the ability of bacteria to fix carbon dioxide be used to limit global warming? Researchers from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)NREL) Using an improved form of bacterial fermentation to convert carbon dioxide into raw materials that allow the production of environmentally friendly fuels. One type of bacterial fermentation is the breakdown of various sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol (ghole). In this case, bacterial fermentation is of another kind, in which the bacteria bind carbon dioxide to another molecule in the cell, and from them a useful molecule rich in energy is produced called acetyl-CoA.
There is a problem with this natural process. It is not suitable for stabilizing carbon dioxide at industrial standards because of the high costs and relatively low mechanical benefit. For this reason, the researchers used an elaborate computer model to develop a completely new process for fixing carbon dioxide in bacteria. By a combination of genetic manipulations, the researchers caused the bacteria to perform another process that relies on two new circular production processes. Researchers appreciated The combination of genetically engineered bacteria and ordinary carbon-fixing bacteria is able to greatly improve the speed and mechanistic benefit of the CO2 conversion process, and allows its application on industrial scales in the future.
Indeed, there is a big difference between this development and the reality in which we hope to capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and use bacteria to convert gas into fuel or into useful chemicals. However, the preliminary results are promising, and the climatic reality necessitates that we think outside the box, and test every technology that is useful in this field.
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