Scientists have discovered a bacteria that neutralizes greenhouse gas, and this might be humanity’s ultimate weapon in combating climate change.
The findings were achieved by researchers at the University of Florida, and currently the deep-sea bacteria is being tested to heighten its effectiveness against carbon dioxide.
So far, it has been revealed that the newly discovered germ, which was named “Thiomicrospira crunogena”, releases enzymes called carbonic anhydrases.
These speed up of the conversion of carbon dioxide and water into bicarbonate and protons, thus stripping the dangerous gas away from the environment.
The bacteria could be highly efficient in turning carbon dioxide into harmless compounds, because of its evolutionary trait, which allows it to thrive in hydrothermal vents.
Given this sturdiness, it can endure the scorching heat which is required for the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide from power plants and other major industrial sources.
“This little critter has evolved to deal with those extreme temperature and pressure problems. It has already adapted to some of the conditions it would face in an industrial setting”, explained Robert McKenna, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine.
According to estimations, flue gas, which is carbon dioxide resulting from fossil fuel use, accounts for 57% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
Therefore, it is hoped that the Thiomicrospira crunogena bacteria could one day soon be used on a larger scale, to diminish the effects of man-made global warming.
This endeavor might prove extremely challenging, given the fact that a significant quantity of carbonic anhydrase is required in order to yield the desired effects.
The team of scientists seems to have found a way to address this problem however, without having to constantly collect the deep-sea bacteria from the bottom of the ocean.
The enzyme will actually be produced in a laboratory, by employing a genetically modified version of the Escherichia coli bacteria.
Up until this moment, several milligrams of the carbonic anhydrase enzyme have been harvested this way, but much higher amounts will be required in order to make a difference when it comes to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to findings published in the journal Nature Climate Change, back in 2011 global carbon dioxide pollution amounted to almost 38.2 billion tons, resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
This is the equivalent of over 2.4 million pounds of heat-trapping gas being emitted every second, so halting such an incredibly accelerated process seems like an insurmountable problem.
Moreover, another limitation that will have to be overcome is that the enzyme takes a long time to produce visible effects. According to researchers, follow-up studies are imperative, in order to improve carbonic anhydrase longevity, and make the chemical reaction more rapid and efficient.
So far, current findings were published in the journals Chemical Engineering Science and Acta Crystallographica D: Biological Crystallography.
This isn’t the first time that tiny organisms from the ocean floor have been analyzed for their capacity of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
In September, a study published by researchers at the British Antarctic Survey showed that West Antarctic bryozoans, known as moss animals, have doubled in population since the 1980’s.
Their growing number is more important than it might initially seem, since these organisms feed on phytoplankton, which contains high quantities of carbon.
When bryozoans die, the carbon absorbed in their skeletons turns into limestone, which is deposited onto the ocean floor and no longer poses any danger.
It appears that so far the microscopic organisms have made a significant contribution to carbon drawdown, amounting to 2,900,000 tons on an annual basis.
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