Nav: Home

Deep-sea bacteria could help neutralize greenhouse gas, researchers find

October 22, 2015

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A type of bacteria plucked from the bottom of the ocean could be put to work neutralizing large amounts of industrial carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, a group of University of Florida researchers has found.

Carbon dioxide, a major contributor to the buildup of atmospheric greenhouse gases, can be captured and neutralized in a process known as sequestration. Most atmospheric carbon dioxide is produced from fossil fuel combustion, a waste known as flue gas. But converting the carbon dioxide into a harmless compound requires a durable, heat-tolerant enzyme. That's where the bacterium studied by UF Health researchers comes into play. The bacterium -- Thiomicrospira crunogena -- produces carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that helps remove carbon dioxide in organisms.

So what makes the deep-sea bacterium so attractive? It lives near hydrothermal vents, so the enzyme it produces is accustomed to high temperatures. That's exactly what's needed for the enzyme to work during the process of reducing industrial carbon dioxide, said Robert McKenna, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the UF College of Medicine, a part of UF Health.

"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," he said.

The findings by the McKenna group, which included graduate research assistants Brian Mahon and Avni Bhatt, were published recently in the journals Acta Crystallographica D: Biological Crystallography and Chemical Engineering Science.

The chemistry of sequestering works this way: The enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, catalyzes a chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide interacts with the enzyme, converting the greenhouse gas into bicarbonate. The bicarbonate can then be further processed into products such as baking soda and chalk.

In an industrial setting, the UF researchers believe the carbonic anhydrase could be captured this way: The carbonic anhydrase would be immobilized with solvent inside a reactor vessel that serves as a large purification column. Flue gas would be passed through the solvent, with the carbonic anhydrase converting the carbon dioxide into bicarbonate.

Neutralizing industrial quantities of carbon dioxide can require a significant amount of carbonic anhydrase, so McKenna's group found a way to produce the enzyme without repeatedly harvesting it from the sea floor. The enzyme can be produced in a laboratory using a genetically engineered version of the common E. coli bacteria. So far, the UF Health researchers have produced several milligrams of the carbonic anhydrase, though Bhatt said much larger quantities would be needed to neutralize carbon dioxide on an industrial scale.

That's just one of the challenges researchers face before the enzyme could be put to use against carbon dioxide in real-world settings. While it has good heat tolerance, the enzyme studied by McKenna's team isn't particularly efficient.

"You want it to do the reaction faster and more efficiently," Bhatt said. "The fact that it has such a high thermal stability makes it a good candidate for further study."

Ideally, Bhatt said, more research will produce a variant of the enzyme that is both heat-tolerant and fast-acting enough that it can be used in industrial settings. Next, they want to study ways to increase the enzyme's stability and longevity, which are important issues to be addressed before the enzyme could be put into widespread industrial use.

While carbonic anhydrase's ability to neutralize carbon dioxide has been widely studied by McKenna and other scientists around the world for some time, finding the best enzyme and putting it to work in an efficient and affordable carbon sequestration system has been challenging. Still, McKenna said he is encouraged by the prospect of discoveries that could ultimately benefit the planet.

"It shows that it's physically possible to take known enzymes such as carbonic anhydrase and utilize them to pull carbon dioxide out of flue gas," he said.
-end-
The study was funded by grant GM25154 from the National Institutes of Health and grant NSF-MCB-0643713 from the National Science Foundation.

University of Florida

Related Greenhouse Gas Articles:

Models, observations not so far apart on planet's response to greenhouse gas emissions
Recent observations suggest less long-term warming, or climate sensitivity, than the predicted by climate models.
Gas hydrate breakdown unlikely to cause massive greenhouse gas release
A recent interpretive review of scientific literature performed by the US Geological Survey and the University of Rochester sheds light on the interactions of gas hydrates and climate.
New Marcellus development boom will triple greenhouse gas emissions from PA's natural gas
Natural gas production on Pennsylvania's vast black shale deposit known as the Marcellus Shale will nearly double by 2030 to meet growing demand, tripling Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas sector relative to 2012 levels, according to a report published today by Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
UCI scientists identify a new approach to recycle greenhouse gas
Using a novel approach involving a key enzyme that helps regulate global nitrogen, University of California, Irvine molecular biologists have discovered an effective way to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO) that can be adapted for commercial applications like biofuel synthesis.
Bacterial mechanism converts nitrogen to greenhouse gas
Cornell University researchers have discovered a biological mechanism that helps convert nitrogen-based fertilizer into nitrous oxide, an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas.
Drying Arctic soils could accelerate greenhouse gas emissions
A new study published in Nature Climate Change indicates soil moisture levels will determine how much carbon is released to the atmosphere as rising temperatures thaw Arctic lands.
'Watchdog' for greenhouse gas emissions
Mistakes can happen when estimating emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Greenhouse gas mitigation potential from livestock sector revealed
Scientists have found that the global livestock sector can maintain the economic and social benefits it delivers while significantly reducing emissions, and in doing so help meet the global mitigation challenge.
Greenhouse gas 'bookkeeping' turned on its head
For the first time scientists have looked at the net balance of the three major greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide -- for every region of Earth's landmasses.
Soil frost affects greenhouse gas emissions in the Arctic
Soil frost is a nearly universal process in the Arctic.

Related Greenhouse Gas Reading:

Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and a New Model of Emissions Trading (American and Comparative Environmental Policy)
by Leigh Raymond (Author)

How the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative created a new paradigm in climate policy by requiring polluters to pay for their emissions for the first time.

In 2008, a group of states in the northeast United States launched an emissions trading program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). With RGGI, these states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont -- achieved what had been considered politically impossible: they forced polluters to pay the public for their emissions. The states... View Details


Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia
by National Research Council (Author), Division on Earth and Life Studies (Author), Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (Author), Committee on Stabilization Targets for Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations (Author)

Emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have ushered in a new epoch where human activities will largely determine the evolution of Earth's climate. Because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is long lived, it can effectively lock the Earth and future generations into a range of impacts, some of which could become very severe. Emissions reductions decisions made today matter in determining impacts experienced not just over the next few decades, but in the coming centuries and millennia.

According to Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and... View Details


Midterm review and update on the corporate average fuel economy program and greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles
by United States Congress (Author), United States House of Representatives (Author), Committee on Energy and Commerce (Author)

Midterm review and update on the corporate average fuel economy program and greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles : joint hearing before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and the Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourteenth Congress, second session, September 22, 2016. View Details


The Day the Cars Went to Sleep: Reducing Greenhouse Gases - Belgium (Economy and Culture Storybooks)
by Hye-Eun Shin (Author), Joy Cowley (Editor), Erika Cotteleer (Editor)

View Details


Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Fluxes and Processes: Hydroelectric Reservoirs and Natural Environments (Environmental Science and Engineering)
by A. Tremblay (Editor), Louis Varfalvy (Editor), Charlotte Roehm (Editor), Michelle Garneau (Editor)

In a time when an unquestionable link between anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and climatic changes has finally been acknowledged and * widely documented through IPCC reports, the need for precise estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) production rates and emissions from natural as well as managed ecosystems has risen to a critical level. Future agreements between nations concerning the reduction of their GHG emissions will - pend upon precise estimates of the present level of these emissions in both natural and managed terrestrial and aquatic environments. From this viewpoint, the... View Details


Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases: From Basic Concepts to Engineering Applications for Air Emission Control (Green Energy and Technology)
by Zhongchao Tan (Author)

This textbook discusses engineering principles relating to air pollution and greenhouse gases (GHGs); it focuses on engineering principles and designs of related devices and equipment for air emission control for a variety of industries such as energy, chemical, and transportation industries. The book aims primarily at senior undergraduate and graduate students in mechanical, chemical and/or environmental engineering departments; it can also be used as a reference book by technical staff and design engineers who are interested in and need to have technical knowledge in air pollution and... View Details


Carbon Footprint and Urban Planning: Incorporating Methodologies to Assess the Influence of the Urban Master Plan on the Carbon Footprint of the City ... in Applied Sciences and Technology)
by Sergio Zubelzu (Author), Roberto Álvarez Fernández (Author)

This book analyzes the relationship between urban development, greenhouse gases and the carbon footprint, and presents the main preventive measures that can be implemented at the design stage. Readers are provided with the knowledge needed to devise a strategy for calculating the carbon footprint of urban planning instruments, as well as a framework for integrating sustainability into the planning phase. Highlighting the importance of preventive and corrective measures, the book includes practical suggestions on how to meet sustainability requirements in urban planning designs, exploring... View Details


Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide Mitigation: Science and Technology
by Martin M. Halmann (Author), Meyer Steinberg (Author)

Any mention of the "greenhouse effect" tends to ignite controversy. While the rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases-especially carbon dioxide- are certainly among the most pressing issues today, theoretical and perceived consequences have been subject to conjecture and misinformation.
That raging debate has obscured an important fact: scientists and engineers are hard at work on methods to reduce CO2 emissions, and devise practical methods for their remediation.
Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide Mitigation: Science and Technology
sheds light on the most recent... View Details


Deadly Greenhouse Gases (A Shady Acres mystery) (Volume 5)
by Cynthia Hickey (Author)

Trouble just won't leave Shelby Hart alone. She's in her greenhouse, minding her own business, when the next thing she knows she's lying on the ground looking up. Someone tried to poison her. Right after she vowed not to snoop into murders anymore. But this killer isn't like the others. This one is a friend with a dark past. A past interwoven with the death of Shelby's father five years ago. Come along as Shelby and her quirky group of friends and relatives work to outrace a killer and find justice. View Details


Slaying the Sky Dragon - Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory
by John O'Sullivan (Author), Hans Schreuder (Author), Claes Johnson (Author), Alan Siddons (Author), Martin Hertzberg (Author), Joseph Olson (Author), Charles Anderson (Author), Tim Ball (Author)

Experts from around the world challenge...and defeat...the well-accepted and completely incorrect theory of man-made global warming via carbon dioxide emissions. In an easy-to-read and thorough treatment, all aspects of the earth's radiative balance are discussed. View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."