Specially prepared bacteria could turn CO2 into fuel, plastic, or useful chemicals

Specially prepared bacteria could be used to turn the most common greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide-CO2) into fuel, plastic, and useful chemicals. A new study has revealed. 

Researchers from Newcastle University created a bioreactor full of E coli bacteria to capture CO2 and turn it into fuel, plastics, and useful chemicals. The new study research raises the possibility of turning CO2 in the atmosphere into useful chemicals. 

Specially prepared bacteria could turn CO2 into fuel, plastic, or useful chemicals

World leaders are currently grappling with the adverse effects of climate change. Limiting global carbon emissions is the top priority to limit earth warming. Reducing carbon emissions will require different scientific approaches and therefore, biology and microbiology will offer some of the best options.

The method captures CO2, turns it into formic acid, a vinegar compound ants use to ward off predators. 

The researchers used a special pressurized bioreactor filled with H2 and CO2 to make the gases available to the microbes. 

The bacteria could grow under gas pressure and generate formic acid from the CO2.

Lead investigator Frank Sargent of the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, said: “The ultimate aim would be to capture wasted CO2 using renewable hydrogen gas from biohydrogen or electrolysis powered by renewable electricity and convert it to formic acid.”

“Then we can make fuel, plastic or chemicals. This is the vision of a truly cyclic economy where CO2 is constantly produced, captured, and returned to the market.”

Using microbes to capture CO2 is among several “carbon capture” technologies being trialed around the world.

Some of the technologies can capture CO2 directly from the air with up to 97% efficiency. 

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and ETH Zurich investigated different technologies to remove CO2 directly from the air. 

CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere and then either buried or used in carbon-based fuels. 

However, carbon capture technologies won’t remove the need to cut carbon emissions as agreed in the Paris Climate Accord but will complement carbon reduction initiatives to help nations meet their climate targets. 

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