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Deep sea bacteria can convert CO2 into harmless byproduct

Scientists have found a bacteria that may be able to convert C02 into a harmless byproduct, and believe that it could be used in industrial settings to reduce emissions.

smoke stack, global warming
By Dori (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0

Global warming is a problem. Nearly every credible scientist and most major world leaders now agree. So too do many business leaders, even those who are producing greenhouse gases. Now, a deep sea bacteria may offer the  best chance for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

While an increasing number of world leaders have acknowledged that global warming is a real threat, few possess the will to take global warming on. Quite simply, people resist change, but the deep sea bacteria may offer a solution without requiring change.

Researchers from the University of Florida, however, believe that a deep sea bacteria could hold the key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This bacteria, called Thiomicrospira crunogena, is able to convert CO2 into a harmless compound.

This bacteria could potentially convert C02 produced via industrial methods into a harmless bicarbonate. If effective, companies could carry on production as normal, then use the bacteria to convert any produced CO2.

Using an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase, the bacteria captures carbon and converts it into bicarbonate, which can then be converted into useful products, such as chalk or baking soda. To accomplish this, the carbonic anhydrase catalyzes a reach between the CO2 and H2O (water).

The bacteria itself is essentially perfect for tackling industrial applications that produce carbon dioxide. Many industrial processes, such as energy plants, produce extreme conditions, such as scalding steam, poisonous gases, etc.

The Thiomicrospira crunogena bacteria, however, evolved to survive in volcanic vents at the bottom of ocean floors. As Professor Robert McKenna said via a press release, “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.”

Researchers, however, might not even need the Thiomicrospira crunogena to convert CO2. In order to produce industrial-sized proportions of carbonic anhydrase, researchers have been working on creating a strain of e. coli that produces it.

While so far only small amounts of the carbonic anhydrase have been produced via this method, researchers believe that some day it might be possible to create entire vessels full of it. These vessels could then serve as purification columns, with C02 waste being passed through it.

Work remains to be done, however, before the enzyme is ready for real world applications. As it is naturally produced, the carbonic anhydrase is rather slow and not particularly efficient.In order for it to be effective, scientists will need to increase the speed at which it can convert CO2 to cope with industrial applications.

Still, the results so far have been nothing short of promising.